Benevolent Authority

In Lent 24 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Jesus went to Capernaum, and he was teaching on the sabbath. The people were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.

Luke 4:31

There has been much talk lately about the rise of autocratic governments. This means a form of authority or government that is absolute or despotic. You seldom ever hear of such governments that rule entirely for the benefit of the people who are submissive to them. Rather, their rule is designed to benefit their own economic advantage and often enslaves, in some way, those under them.

Jesus, on the other hand, had authority that came from his integrity. But it was dramatically different than that exercised by a despot. Rather, Jesus used his power against the powers that enslaved and harmed the weak and powerless. Luke wrote that those who encountered his teaching were astonished by that authority with which he spoke. Yet, they never accused him of being an autocrat because he used his power to benefit those who followed him.

This is quite different from those who tax those with less, to benefit those with more. That withdraw help from those who are helpless. That lie, cheat, and steal because they are powerful and accountable to no one.

Jesus had another kind of authority as well. This was the inherent authority of what he said. His words were truth and authenticity. Those who heard him knew they had just heard something more powerful and truthful than anything their government leaders espoused.

One other striking thing about Jesus’ “authority” was the authority given to him because of his trustfulness and integrity. In other words, his character was compelling and made people want to follow him – definitely not because he imposed authority on them.

Something to think about: In what ways can Jesus’ mode of authority help us to evaluate the models of authority we see in our own communities or nation? What kind of authority would you prefer to see?

Something to pray about: O God, there is so much evil power being exercised in our world. Worse than that, the people in powerless positions are exploited and abused by this power. As you taught us to pray, “May thy kingdom come and thy will be done ON EARTH.” How we long for your good reign and benevolent authority in our world. In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.

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