The day after Jesus drove the merchants and traders out of the temple, the chief priests, scribes and elders of the temple put Jesus on the spot, questioning his authority to do such things. They expected a direct answer. Knowing the hearts of those who would accuse him, Jesus turned their question around on those who abused the authority they’ve been given by God, replacing it with a perceived authority all their own.
All too often, the church faces the dilemma of authority. Certainly, God calls leaders for his people and gives them authority to act on his behalf. Yet, we have seen it happen time and again that sin creeps into the life of the church and challenges what God has set in place. Both clergy and lay leaders are susceptible and must remain open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need to recognize the difference between what is real and what is perceived.
Authority that is exercised in the truth of the gospel is revealed as a reflection of the life and light of Jesus Christ. The chief commandments to love God and love neighbor become the guiding factors for decisions and activities. Perceived authority, or authority that is abused, cannot stand in the light of truth. Its fruit is conflict, division and brokenness.
Jesus is the model for faithful leadership; the leader’s authority is found in him. When sin and brokenness creep into the life of the church, faithful leaders recognize such issues, confronting them in the way Jesus taught. In his name, we speak the truth in love and forgive the sins of others as God forgives us. We recognize our own faults and seek to reconcile all involved through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Merciful God, guide us by the example of your Son; make us willing to bow to your authority. Amen.