I think we all have a complicated relationship with authority. We may have experienced the gift of kind authority AND may have suffered under harsh and needy displays of authority as well. Maybe we swing back and forth on the pendulum – going from authoritarian to permissive continually and struggling to know what the middle looks like.
Are you glad you are in authority over your kids’ life? Or, do you fear misusing it? Are you convicted by how you use authority in the lives of your kids and are tempted to abdicate it?
I know I have. And yet in wanting them to know the Father’s grace we are tempted to walk away from authority altogether. But to live without authority is not really how our Father parents us, his beloved kids.
It has steadied me to look at Christ, who is my life. I wanted to learn from him, who is gentle and lowly. So I studied the Scriptures asking: Is he authoritative? How does he wield authority? How can we, as parents that are one with Christ, use authority in a way that gives life?
I observed three things about Christ’s authority:
- Christ’s authority is a stewardship. The Lord knew authority had been given to him (Matt. 28: 20). His teaching was not his own but came from the one who sent him (John 7: 16). He only taught what His father had taught him to speak and did what he had seen the Father do (John 8 28).
- Christ’s authority is humble. I am astonished at this.
- He didn’t use it for himself but to empower and save. It enabled others to go to the ends of the earth, make disciples and teach them all that He taught them (Matt. 28: 20). With his authority, he gave the assurance and comfort of his presence with them, that would be with them always.
- His was not a needy authority. Knowing the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and going back to God, he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13: 3). He used his commands to save his disciples and those under oppression (Matthew 8: 23-27; Mark 1: 27). All authority was given to him and he used it to lay down his life and take it up again so that with his life we might have life too (John 10: 18). That is why His Father loved him.
- But not only did he wield power to enable others but also to reveal the glory of Another (Luke 10: 22). He has the name above all names so that when every tongue confesses his lordship, they glorify his Father (Phil. 2: 10).
- Christ’s authority is confident. One of the distinctives of Christ’s teaching was it’s authority (Matt. 7:29). He didn’t teach with insecurity or self doubt. He was never embarrassed about having so much authority. Rather, after his resurrection, it was that truth that encouraged the disciples who still had doubts, “All authority [not some authority] but all authority in heaven and earth has been given me.” He gladly used his authority to teach his disciples everything about the Father, to preach the good news about the kingdom and explain how to live in a way that brought honor to his Dad.
Dear Christian parent, this is our Christ. Let your heart melt as you consider his life-giving power and authority. If you have been on the pendulum swing, I offer these thoughts:
- Embrace your role of authority as a Christian parent. The fear to misuse it might be warranted – you have seen how often it happens. But you are not alone. Christ has gifted you his presence so that in his name, you can make disciples of your kids, teaching them to obey what you’ve learned from the triune God. You can joyfully guide, train, enforce boundaries, and discipline them because it is about revealing to them the beauty of another. May I gently encourage you to take your focus off from what you are able to do and rejoice in Christ and what he is able to do through you.
- Remember to use your authority as a stewardship – it is a temporary role, not a permanent identity. It has a purpose that is bigger than your family, your needs, or your desires. Have you ever found yourself needing your kids’ love, approval or affirmation? I have. But when I remember how deeply loved I am, Christ enables me to steward my role humbly so that from his abundant goodness to me, I generously show the Father’s fullness to my kids.
- Steward your authority relationally. I am so overwhelmed by the thought that Christ, who has all authority in heaven and earth, promises his presence with us. He is always near. Sometimes we give relational consequences to our kids – withdrawing affection, acting offended and forcing them to initiate relationship with us after they sin. But Christ’s love actively pursues us, and stays in relationship with us.
I know this topic can be difficult to consider, maybe even painful. I really hope it comforts you to rest in the promise of Christ in Matthew 11:25-28:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:25-30).
He has chosen to reveal the Father to you. And it is that relationship that gives you rest. He knows what wearies us in parenting so he invites us to learn from him – our gentle and lowly Christ, so we can find rest. And from that place of rest in the Father and Son’s love we will be able to be conduits of the life and authority of the Son – to the glory of our Father and the joy of our kids.