Authority and Obedience

authorityAuthority. That’s a word Americans have a problem with. We’re proud of our independence. Of our rebellion. It’s part of our heritage. We celebrate it every Fourth of July. Words like “authority” and “obedience” and “submission” make our skin crawl. We’d like to take them out of our vocabulary altogether. We don’t even grant God authority anymore.

This became strikingly apparent to me recently when I engaged in a pair of election-related conversations. The topic? Homosexuality. Basically, our conversations boiled down to a clash of worldviews. They elected that we individually and as a nation must support the decisions of people struggling with sexual identity confusion because it’s the kind and generous thing to do. (Love before obedience. People before God.) I maintained that the Creator has put absolute standards in place that must be obeyed, and any love given outside those parameters is actually destructive. (Obedience before love. God before people.) Needless to say, my theology was not popular.

But today I read a Bible passage and commentary that gets to the heart of the authority issue. I’m still reading through the Jewish New Testament. I just started the gospel of John. Here’s what Mr. Stern had to say in his commentary:

In the beginning was the Word. The language echoes the first sentences of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Word which was with God and…was God is not named as such in Genesis but is immediately seen in action: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’. ‘And God called the light Day.'” And so on, through Genesis and indeed throughout the whole Tanakh (OT). God’s expressing himself, commanding, calling and creating is one of the two primary themes of the entire Bible (the other being his justice and mercy and their outworking in the salvation of humanity). This expressing, this speaking, this “word” is God; a God who does not speak, a Word-less God is no God. And a Word that is not God accomplishes nothing.

This passage isn’t about homosexuality. It’s about the much more foundational issue of God’s authority. God is Creator. His Word is powerful. His Word is law. And all Creation bears testimony to his authority. This passage in John, supported by Genesis, sets the stage for the teaching ministry of Christ (the Word incarnate) by granting him this same divine authority. And while Jesus did command us to love men, he stressed obedience to God above all.

But no one in America wants to talk about obedience. It’s far easier to speak of “love”. Based on the incredible power displayed in Genesis as well as the ultimate love showed to us at the end of John’s gospel, I think it would greatly benefit us to find out what else God said and obey it.