I had a passel of my nieces and nephews over the other day (which made for a house with 8 kids, a clear reminder about why me and my wife stopped at two).  Of course they eventually got out of control (seriously, dear sister of mine, buying them paintball guns for Christmas?!?) and we had to reign them in a bit.  Half way through me telling them to calm down or else there would be consequences, I suddenly became self-conscious of the fact that I was an authority figure.

I’m so distrustful of power and authority, I question it even when I’m the one exercising it.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” –Ephesians 5:21

Maybe it’s a modern/postmodern thing, but I chafe under the yoke of authority.  Any authority.  I would find it difficult to believe that I’m the only person like this.  I know it’s popular thinking for some people to point to the 1960s/1970s as to when the youth in America began to not only question, but outright distrust authority.

I suspect the answer it a lot closer to home.  Some of us grow up in households where power was exercised in anger or abusive.  Some of us had leaders who exercised their authority either as compensation for their own brokenness or to further their own ego/agenda.  We experience so many examples of power misused that we don’t trust any of the leaders over us.  The sad thing is too few of our leaders prove themselves to be truly honorable enough to lead.  Then couple that with the fact that with us buying into the myth of our freedom and independence, and we don’t want to be told what to do (or even the idea that we’re being told what to do).

We have a limited list of folks we consider ourselves answerable to:  parents (the first authority in our lives; an authority despite how we often treated them growing up), our bosses (the authority by rule of pay check), our spouses (an authority by mutual pledge, though the idea that they may be an authority we’re accountable to may still fill us with quiet unease).  And that’s before we get to the list of authorities we’re accountable to through the force of power they exercise, be it the tip of a gun or the penalty of law:  civil authorities, police, government officials (offices to be honored if not the people who occupy them).

But reviewing those verses again, it sounds a lot like we’re in a constant pact of mutual respect and submission to one another.  That we’re to be constantly pushing in on one another.  That we shouldn’t be afraid of uncomfortable or unpleasant conversations because they have to happen when you’re concerned about someone.

As an authority, I don’t exercise my “power” like a tyrant; not in anger and not just cause I can (though, believe me, there’s plenty of “because I said so” that I have to remind myself to not default to).  I have to remind myself that I’m not there to be my children’s or nephews’/nieces’ friend.  I’m there to help raise and mold them into the best “thems” they can be because I love them and want them to grow into adults who are respectful, loving and make good decisions.  Paint ball fights in the house does not fall into any of those categories.