Shekinah Glory

Respect For Authority
September 29, 2008, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, God, Grace, Inspiration, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality

When I was studying to be a Missionary at Moody Bible Institute I was concerned about helping people of other cultures. I so desperately wanted to be the next Albert Schweitzer, David Livingston, or Hudson Taylor that I being a missionary was the only way to achieve that goal. I took classes with names like, biculturalism, cultural anthropology, church at work in the world and missiology. Yet, my time amongst these missionaries and missionary students changed me. Moody had a lot of international students and they often found themselves in the mission department. So, I was blessed to be around a culturally diverse array of students. Plus, many of the missionaries brought with them a multicultural perspective that challenged the rigid theology of that fundamentalist school. This radically altered my perspectives and challenged my own Midwestern, conservative upbringing.

In the summer of my Junior and Senior year I was required to do an internship somewhere overseas. I must admit that I was quite poor, so when I saw the price tags on the trips to Asia and Africa I knew that there was no way that I would make it. Then I saw something that caught my eye. It was an internship working in Maui for the Berean missionaries.

I know, I know it sounds like too good to be true, but it was a lot of hard work. Sure we were in one of the most beautiful places on earth, but we were putting in 12 hour days painting houses, running camps, teaching children’s programs, going door-to-door, leading youth programs and attending Bible Studies. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, but any illusion that I had that it would be easy melted away with the hours of intense work that we had to do.

One thing that shocked me was that I got along so well with most of the missionaries. Sadly, they lived isolated inside a gated compound, separated from the world that they were convinced was too secular. Yet, I found most of them to be likable and down-to-earth people. That was except for the leader of the mission. He was what I like to call a strong authority figure. Let’s be clear, it was hard to tell if he was a misogynist or the culture, but his I did not seem to agree with his heavy-handed approach. When during a Bible study he told the people that we had convinced to attend a Bible study that the beatitudes were not applicable to the church I argued against that viewpoint. I was told that I was a disruption and should show the authority respect.

Upon returning I met with the head of the mission department. He sat down with me in his office and told me that I had received the highest rating for my summer internship amongst all the students who were on our particular team. The glowing words from the missionaries filled my file. Yet, the joy of my summer’s accomplishments were short lived when this man put down the folder and looked at me from the other side of the desk.

“Brian I can’t take away your good evaluation, but I think it would be wrong for me not to add a note to your file for potential employers to see. I am going to write that you have a major problem with authority.”

Stunned and angry all I could think to say was, “I guess you are right, so I think you should put that in my file.”

That day I learned something important about authority. Sometimes there is a higher moral authority that must be followed than those who are in power because of wealth, intelligence or position. Sometimes it takes simple acts of faith to see that there is authority and then there is authority.

I think that this is what Jesus is facing from the religious authorities of his day. He has just boarded a donkey while the people are praising his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many of the poor and the sick come to Jesus for healing. Then Jesus takes a prominent role as a teacher amongst common folk. Who is he to do such things?

“We have authority! What gives you authority?”

Yet, there are little but cryptic answers from Jesus and a parable about serving even if it means changing your mind. In the end the Jesus says the most radical thing a religious leader can assert. That because of their reliance on rote authority these men of high stature will not inherit the kingdom of heaven before the unclean parts of society that they despise the most. The prostitutes and the tax collectors will enter into heaven before the ones who have studied, are part of the lineage and have some economic advantage. The ones most of us in polite society would be uncomfortable with have the answer. What is that answer? Simple faith in God.

It is time to surrender to what these cheering crowds of commoners hoped, that this man had the power to heal, the power to forgive, the power to turn everything in their life anew and give them the opportunity to be the new creations that will usher into being the just and peaceable kingdom that is called God’s.

If you do not have this type of faith, I pray that you get it. Something as simple as faith can change your life, and it can help you to change your world into one in which everyone is valued and the only authority that matters is the one that comes from the almighty God.


9 Comments so far
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And they all said… “Amen!”


Comment by jeremy


Comment by pastorofdisaster

Where is our Pastor of Disaster? Is he going to return anytime soon? I have missed you.

Comment by May Ishimoto

As a minister, one thing I pray to do with my pastoral authority is to live fully into my gifts, but never away from my faith in God–i.e. I do not want to live in such a manner that I worship at the altar of my own power. I see how so many ministers use their position as a trump card to insist their power is God-given. I pray I always hold to the Beatitudes, as found in Luke. May there always be blessings and woes as reminders of what we must lean into and the consequences if we do not.

Beautiful post. Thank you.

Comment by Jacqueline

Interesting. I enjoyed your take on this.

Comment by tobeme

brian, i had a similar experience in my adventures in missions though my issues were more around being too real and genuine… and it was about growing into the beatitudes and finding in my own pain the pain of the world and a deeper faith in the God who calls us “blessed” when we mourn, hunger and are poor… thanks for sharing the journey.

Comment by jenny warner


You know with this conference that I have been out of town. I will get back to this immediately. Carol wants me to post a poem a day.


Thanks for the encouragement. I agree completely.


It is always good to hear from you.


You always encourage me along. I know our similar stories have made us both stronger in the faith.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

Thanks for this blog, Brian. I got that same accusation from that same school. I was very young in my faith at the time and accepted much of what was being said as if it had fallen from the pages of Scripture as well. After all, who am I compared to this firing squad of Dallas ThDs?

Now that I’ve been a Pastoral Counselor for nearly 10 years and have treated an endless stream of hurting clergy, clergy families and congregants, I recognize and accept that we church folk are just as broken as everybody else. Sometimes we use our brokenness in ways that seriously harms others. It’s awful — like squashing down a seriously gifted young minister such as you were back in those days.

I have the nerve to think that God actually WANTS us to question not only human authority, but God’s own authority. I don’t think God is intimidated by scrutiny, and would much rather come to a genuine understanding with us than to have our goose step obedience.

But then again, I also don’t think that righteousness was the intended end product for salvation. (Something about… loving us? Wanting to be in relationship with us…? HHhhmmmm.) But what do you expect from an unrepentant “contentious woman” in her naive heresy? ;~)

Comment by tiffany craig

Thanks Tiffany. If you ever want to preach that message in my church you are welcome.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

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