When we speak of authority as Christians we must consider the differing levels of authority in the home. These are easy to delineate but I can guarantee that I, like others struggle with them. The first and absolute authority is God. If you are a Christian and you believe that you are the final authority in your home, you are wrong. I’m not a finger pointer though because I do it too and it is a pride thing for me. I work hard for my family, for the things we have and enjoy but all of that is God’s providence. There is no splitting hairs in that statement, your life, my life exists because he created humanity. Without that, there is nothing. Yet we lose perspective of that daily in life.
Authority of God
God has authority over all things but what is authority and who has it? Authority is the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. There are several types of authority we are completely under the influence of in our life and they all come as a gift from God. The Government as we see in Romans 13:1, The legal system (Judges) as seen in Romans 13:2, authority of the church (Titus 5:1) and Family/Parental authority in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. These are clear and undeniable, it is plainly stated in each of those verses. The authority of God is unequivocal and He has delegated authority (Daniel 4:17) to some institutions on earth. While church, the government and the legal system are topics we may cover another day we are in the Faithful Father series so parental authority is the topic of the day.
Define Parental Authority
I can think of no more important passage in the Bible for defining parental authority and obligation to your children than Deuteronomy 11:1-19. In this passage we are commanded to love and serve the Lord by keeping the rules and commandments given to us. Deuteronomy 11:2 specifically charges us with teaching our children these things. Then Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us when and how we should teach God’s word. The short answer, always. Our authority is only through God’s power and our children will not understand or respect that authority unless they are taught about where the authority stems from.
One of the ways I have been trying to help my children understand the chain of command on a spiritual level is by posing several questions when they have done something they probably should not have. The biggest one right now is lying. Our conversation goes something like this;
Child commits some act.
Me: Did you do this?
Them: No (They are lying, I know, I witnessed the problem.)
Me: What is the thing I dislike the most?
Me: When you lie, who do you lie to?
Now at this point they know the answer, I have explained to them that every time they commit some act of disobedience they are breaking a commandment. They know that by lying to me they are not just displeasing me, but more importantly, God.
Them: God, Jesus, You, Momma
Me: That’s right, so i will ask again and remember, I am not going to get angry but I am going to be disappointed that you would lie to me and by lying to me you are displeasing God.
Usually after that they tell the truth, we talk, they still lose something they like doing because I am a firm believer in cause and effect. My goal is to first follow God’s command that I bring my children up under His instruction and discipline (Ephesians 6:1, 4). Parental Authority is the distribution of God’s will through the husband and wife. It is not a place of superiority and it is not about having a specific position in the home.
The parents position in a home is not one of merciless dictator, husbands are to love and sacrifice for the wife as Christ did for the church. A wife is to help her husband in all things. They raise children under God’s will. These are symbiotic relationships and not one-way streets. We often see that position as a perk and forget that it carries responsibility. In all places where God has given this power of authority there is also a requirement that individuals in that position will come to account for their actions.
Society is kept safe with laws, this practice was in place from Creation when God gave a single law and man failed to obey. Laws serve multiple purposes, they protect individuals and they protect society as a whole. Society creates laws when it believes an action or set of actions are causing a significant amount of harm to individuals and to society. Those with authority must understand that they have a duty of care to those under their influence and any abuse of that position answers to God. God rewards those who use that position to protect and bless those under their influence (Luke 12:42-48; 20:9-16).
Husbands, seek to not be spiritually passive. Engage with the Bible and with God daily. Engage in discussions with your wife about God, daily. Consider this, if your wife has more knowledge and is more spiritually mature than you, you will have to answer God’s questions of why you were not leading your family spiritually. This does not mean to just step back and defer to your wife in all things connected to God. Instead it is a call for you to dig in and do what God made you for. Loving Him, protecting what is His (your wife and children) and leading them to Him, through His word.
Applying Authority to Yourself
The authority, as a husband or father, you are given has nothing to do with your position in your family but has everything to do with your character as a person, as a Christian. The greatest leaders are servants. Jesus made the case for that in Mark 10:42-45 and we see this in the most successful businesses as well. There are two types of leaders, those who focus on supervision, organizing and performance. These are transactional leaders, they may be efficient but not effective. The other type of leader who works with people to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of a group. These are transformational leaders.
A servant leader is both of these things and a husband should strive to be both of these things. There are times where supervision of your children is essential but more often than not you need to inspire them to be better, not just command them to. The best way to do that is to show them how, by committing yourself to doing the things you want them to do. Give them a vision of what God wants from His earthly followers and then drive towards that goal.
I am not perfect, I just share my thoughts on the Bible and what God is telling me needs to be communicated. Ask these questions of yourself to make sure what you are doing is based on servant leadership and not narcissism;
- Have I given it all to God? Am I the slave of Christ? There is no room for partial obedience in God’s heart.
- If I am in a position to exert authority am I abusing it? Or am I using it under the weight of knowledge that God will call me to answer for how I am treating those under my authority?
- Am I serving those I am over? Am I practicing the humbleness that Christ displayed while he was persecuted and slain?
- What is my character saying about how I use that authority? Am I leading my family by obeying God’s word first?
Authority is not a fickle subject. It is something that God has clearly defined in the Bible and has given us direction about. Authority done in a manner befitting Christ brings discipline from those subject to it. If a leader, a husband, is doing this he will have honored God’s desire for the position he has been placed it. It can be difficult to remember that desire when we are angry but we have to hold fast to our confessions of God’s love and use them for good and not the crushing of another’s spirit.