READ: Numbers 31-33, Psalm 51, Luke 7, 1 Corinthians 7
In Luke 7 Jesus encounters a Roman Centurion, a man with at least one hundred direct reports. This Roman authority exhibits more faith than anyone Jesus has met in the whole country, and his faith is exhibited through his understanding of submission. “I also am a man placed under authority,” he says (v. 8). “Say the word and it shall be done” (v. 7).
When we submit to Jesus, we prove that we trust Him.
Effectual authority is derived from submission. In order to have real (life-transforming) authority, you need to be submitted to authority. Anyone can be a tyrant, but only the submitted lead others to life. Counterintuitively, we gain authority by submitting to authority. Authority does not result from dominance (that is bullying) or power (that is extortion); authority comes from submission and trust – ultimately in God. Jesus’ power resulted from His submission to the Father. Our power, likewise, results from the depth of our submission to Jesus – that depth is tested by how well we submit to our earthly, imperfect authorities.
When we submit to our authorities, we prove that we trust Jesus.
We demonstrate our faith by how we submit to earthly authority. Do we believe that God really is sovereign? Did He put these fallen humans over me or not? In mission and ministry, we will be led by an array of men and women who walk with a limp. Do we trust that God can speak to them about us? It is a trust issue – not so much about trusting them to hear God, but more so trusting God to overcome their liabilities and to use their strengths for our wellbeing. This takes faith, faith not out in the merry ether, but faith on the muddy field of our daily lives and decisions.
This trust requires brokenness and belief that God is the principle actor in my life, not my immediate authority. Faith understands that authority in my life is only there because there is someone above him or her and so on, all the way up the authority chain until we rest in the ultimate (and perfect) authority of God. When we trust God, we can trust our human authority. This trust is linked to brokenness, for brokenness bestows on us the grace to submit to others. Brokenness is a strong, proactive force. When man is broken before God, God acts in all His power (Ps. 51:17). The protection and defense of man is all about God. The broken (contrite and humble heart) trusts that God will defend Him in the highest court. There is rest and safety in that belief. There is also blessing to those we are in authority over, for they too will experience the justice and protection of God through our hands – as we lead with submitted authority.