The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to make Rep. John Boehner its Speaker. Many evaluated his qualifications based on whether, in their opinion, he took the right tact in responding to the White House’s agenda. Others considered the “conservative bona fides” of his position on certain public policies. But I’d like to suggest that, for Christians, there is another consideration that may be more important in the long run.
And that consideration is whether the person really understands the issue of authority. While those who don’t profess to make Scripture their rule of faith and practice will likely disagree, biblically speaking, only those with a right understanding of authority are truly fit to hold positions of authority.
So what can we learn about authority from Scripture that might give us insight into whether Rep. Boehner, or any other person for that matter, should be entrusted with authority in the realm of civil government?
Let’s study King David. Samuel described him as one whom God wanted as ruler because he was a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). I believe David was a man after God’s own heart because he understood the issue of authority.
David understood that all rightful authority came from God. He understood that Scripture teaches that all authority belongs to God, that God is the one who bestows authority on men, that those who must strive with men to attain authority are not yet broken enough to exercise it well, and that those in authority who exercise it well understand, as Jesus said explicitly, that it is not to be used to lord it over others, but to serve.
David was far from perfect, but in both the way he respected the authority of his predecessor, Saul, and in the way he responded to the challenge to his kingly authority by his own son, Absalom, we see a man who understood authority was God’s.
When given the opportunity to take Saul’s life and assert himself into the position of kingly authority to which he had already been anointed and called by Samuel, David refrained. Even when Saul was killed in battle, David waited in Hebron for God’s timing instead of “marching” into Jerusalem to assert the authority he’d been promised. And when Absalom asserted himself to the throne, and David’s servants said they stood “ready to do whatever my lord the king chooses,” David chose not to fight to keep his position of authority, but fled the palace. David gave God the prerogative of choosing whether to depose him or restore him.
Watchman Nee, in his book Spiritual Authority, said, “The controversy of the universe is centered on who shall have the authority… .” And so it is. Is authority God’s to give and bestow, or is it man’s to grasp and then to fight with others to keep?
Though David modeled well the truth that authority “belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11), he is not our ultimate model. Rather it is Jesus, of whom it was said in Philippians 2:6-8:
“Although He existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a think to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant … and he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Yes, sometimes when you lead like Jesus, the world will crucify you, and the world of politics is no exception.
But, thankfully, the cross is not the end of the story, for the passage in Philippians continues:
“Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (v. 9).
And now “all authority, both in heaven and earth” is his (Matthew 28:18).
So when I find a politician who seems to want a position of authority just a little too much, whose practice is to “scratch-my-back-if-I’ll-scratch-his, and who will punish competent people who support someone else, I’m inclined to find someone else for that position. He’s liable to be the tyrant of tomorrow.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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