Monday, January 29, 2024

Authority is not the problem. . .

Though we live in a Christian world in which Christians have become embarrassed by such things as the masculine names for God made known to us in the Scriptures and the kingly nature of the Savior who is born of Mary, authority is not the problem we need to fix.  Though we live in a pseudo-egalitarian world in which everyone is supposed to be equal and count the same, the Son of God is designated King from the promise given before His birth to His birth as King of the Jews to the sign placed by Pilate above the crucified Lord.  This is not a problem for us to fix but an article of faith for us to believe and confess.

It was a sad day when supposedly well-meaning Christians decided that some texts of Scripture and hymns were too militant and that king and kingdom were terms to be avoided.  Some Lutherans continue to do this (reference Clint Schnekloth who is a proud ELCA pastor and who drops the g so the offending word ends up kin-dom).  It seems that we have reversed the mantra of Israel who begged the Lord for a king so that they would be like everyone else.  Now we want nothing of a kingdom nor of a Savior who is a King.  Nope, we want nothing of patriarchy or monarchy of any kind and will reject any Jesus who does not know to be as enlightened as we are.,

That is the problem.  We have rejected a Savior who is born King and rejected the Kingdom He has come to rule.  In so doing, we have ended up with the chaos of diversity in which stupidity is deemed wise and wisdom has gone begging.  In our dream world, there are no sins and no redeemers but there are also no rulers or subjects.  We rule ourselves.  The fruits of Eden are not the choice of the wrong kings but no kings or, better, a kingdom not of priests to serve but of kings who do what they please.  In this world of our dreams, there are no authority figures (at least none we will admit) and freedom has become license to continue Eden's rebellion where and how we please.  Remember here I am not talking about the world out there but those who claim the name Christian and who believe themselves to be true to Jesus.

Congregations want to reshape the Gospel into something the majority can vote on and they want to be able to fire their pastors at will.  Authority even of our Confessions is but lip service to many Lutherans and even Lutherans view the pastor as an employee.  Indeed, the worst thing a pastor can be is to be faithful (which translates into domineering in the minds of many).  The discipline of the congregation has largely been lost.  We find it impossible to hold those in pew accountable for their public sins anymore than we do the pastors for theirs.  We deal with discipline by ignoring the trouble and hoping that it will go away or by talking about anything and everything except sin in the Church.  No kings are allowed to upset that ideal -- not even Jesus!

We presume authority is the right to tell people what to do and then punish them if they don't.  That was never the kind of authority Scripture speaks of nor is it the authority of Christ.  If that is all authority is -- the right to tell others what to do -- it is no wonder that we chafe under it or fight over who exercises it. Christianity transformed the world not with a God strong enough to take down all the other gods of Rome and Athens but with a God strong enough to suffer and die.  Authority for those who would follow Him is not the pursuit of unrestrained license and freedom to do what you please but taking up the cross, following Jesus, loving God above all things and your neighbor as yourself.  The authority refused the sexual indulgence of Rome, the misogyny of a world in which men were better than women, and the false morality of a world in which children, especially the unborn, did not matter.

Christianity did not dismantle one authoritarian regime in order to replace it with another.  We did not exchange one self-serving dictator for another.  We got a King who dies for His subjects and who earns His authority by means of the suffering of the cross and the death to redeem the dead to life.  This is not a King who comes with a list of demands or a new set of rules but of love strong enough to forgive and life strong enough to raise us with Him.  That does not mean that anything goes but that His kingly reign comes not by abandoning all that He was incarnate to do.  Rather it means drawing us into Him and into the shape of His service until to the world the King and His subjects are one.  This authority does not ignore sin or wish it away or shrug it off but confronts it -- all sin, even the pet sins and desires of our hearts we never think to confess.  He brings it out into the open not to condemn us but to save us.  Love does not let the sinner off but applies the currency of Christ's own blood to pay its awful price.  If anything, this is an authority vastly superior and with a higher claim on us than one which comes with demands and commands.  In this Kingdom of Christ we do not live in the chains of His oppression but in the freedom to live as one of His own, under Him in His Kingdom now and even forevermore.  It is high time that we began to act like it and to abandon our foolishness in favor of His eternal wisdom.

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