28 Jan

“If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority.” ~ Yugoslavian proverb

Authority is a big word for us.  It is a big concept.  It can also be a big problem.  When we are very young, we appear to accept the authority of our parents and others quite naturally.  When they say something, we do it.  We do not seem to ask many questions or rebel against it.  That is, when we are very young.

Then something happens to us.  We begin to question  the authority of others.  Older brothers and sisters, parents, teachers, employees, law enforcement officers, religious — they are all “suspect”. We do not want to listen to what they have to say nor do we want to follow their advice or their direction.

If our human nature holds authority in such contempt, why, then, do so many people want to become a person of authority?  We know what often happens in those matters.  A person who was anti-authoritarian often becomes someone who will not tolerate his or her authority to be challenged. That person often sets ridiculous rules or non-attainable goals.  That person often runs roughshod over his or her underlings.

“If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority.” That proverb certainly rings true. So, let us look at the man we call Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus entered a synagogue and was met by a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus silenced the spirit and healed the man. The response of those present?  “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Yes. Jesus has authority. But He does not “lord” His authority over others. He does not make others do what He wants. He uses His authority to set us free: free from sin, free from fear, free from death.

That is the same authority that Jesus gave to His followers and the type of authority that He wants His followers to use. It is incumbent upon us, who know the Lord, to use what He has given to us wisely, never to browbeat others, but always to do all that we can to love, to nurture, and to set others free. We have received authority from God.  Let us never misuse it.

FAITH ACTION:  If you have authority over others, make sure that you use your authority to nurture them and help them to grow.