The Rule Of Love

Authority.

That’s not a popular word these days.

It doesn’t seem loving to rule over others.

That’s because there have been so many negative examples of authority throughout history, and we have all likely been negatively affected by someone who has abused their power and not used it to cultivate life. This happens in homes, businesses, governments, and churches.

This disdain that many have for authority figures can seep into the church if we’re not careful. At many times, this clearly does. The church becomes a place in our minds that has no authority over us as people. This creates a culture of Christians that move from church to church,  never submitting to the rule of a church over them.

Instead of churches full of Christians that are holding each other accountable, we have churches full of independent Christians, which in my mind is an extreme oxymoron.

In his book, The Rule of Love, Jonathan Leeman sets out to show how the authority of God over us is not at odds with His love for us.

In the opening chapter, Leeman begins by showing how our culture’s view of love is way off course. Our culture makes love about self, finding happiness. We have allowed consumerism and tribalism to seep into our views on love. We see this consumerism by the way that men and women evaluate their ‘purchasing power’, measuring themselves up to what they believe they deserve in another man or woman. Tribalism shows up when we define ourselves by our own group, whether that be race-related, career-related, or likes-related.

This false love comes into the church in a detrimental way when we only submit to the body when the programs and worship styles make us as a group feel comfortable, or if it’s the best we can consume individually.

Leeman continues his book with a chapter on how various theologians throughout church history have thought about love, whether that be God’s love or the love of man. This chapter got a little tiring for me, but there were some intriguing points of discussion.

After this, we get two chapters on God’s love for Himself. Now that’s certainly a topic I don’t hear a lot of conversations about in our churches, but it’s an important one. God loves Himself. That’s a confusing phrase and theme of Christianity, but it is the basis and foundation of what it means for us to love each other. I would encourage you to dig into articles on this, and pick up this book for a thorough study on this topic.

At the conclusion of these two chapters on God’s love for Himself, we are given a list of how this applies to the local church, in the areas of membership and church discipline.

  1. Holy love impels a church to evangelize and do good.
  2. Holy love impels a church to mark of members and practice church discipline.
  3. Holy love impels a church to teach and disciple.
  4. Holy love motivates a church to worship.
  5. Holy love creates a distinct and holy culture. 

The second of these points gives us one of the main thrusts of this book.

According to Leeman,

A church that chooses to emphasize God’s love but not God’s holiness is a church that doesn’t actually understand what God’s love is. God’s love, I’ve observed, is wholly fixed upon God and his glorious character in all aspects. It’s holy. A church characterized by holy love, likewise, is jealous for God’s glory and fame. 

We live in a day and age in our Christian culture where membership and discipline are frowned upon. They both seem too authoritarian at best and unloving at worst. To not welcome all and accept all is to not show the love of Jesus to others, we say. I’ve heard that said explicitly and implicitly countless times. Yet it becomes pretty clear that if we are to model the love and holiness of God, this includes setting clear distinctions between those who are in the body and those who are not. If we are to model the love and holiness of God, then we should enforce church discipline. This can be abused yes. Definitely. But the abuse of authority by some should not hinder the attempts at God-honoring authority by others.

In chapter five, Leeman goes on to talk about God’s love for sinners. It was a pleasant chapter full of the good news of the gospel.

In chapter six, Leeman continues by speaking on the idea of love and judgement. As he has done several times throughout the book already, he shows how judgement is an unavoidable aspect of love. Our daily lives are full of judgements about what we love and don’t love. Do I love keeping my body healthy or eating Pizza Hut? Do I love clean teeth or getting to work? These are silly examples but they should serve to remind us that we all make countless judgments every day about what we love.

The final chapter is about the relationship between love and authority, ultimately what the entire book is about. The following quote was so good that I had to stop and write it down in my journal,

Good authority loves. Good authority gives. Good authority passes out authority. – Jonathan Leeman

Yes, there are authorities in our lives that hate, take, and refuse to delegate.

But that is not the type of authority that God desires us to model, in our homes or in our churches. As a man who has been given some authority over certain aspects of my current church, I have been tasked by God to cultivate what I reside over. Too often I fail to do that.

This book was ultimately a pretty good read. It wasn’t one of the best books I’ve read recently, and it wasn’t one of the worst. I think that many people would get bogged down in some of the monotonous sections of the book, but if you push through to the last couple chapters you will find some great truths.

I have received a free copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an unbiased review.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Submitting to Sinners

What are we to do when governments and authorities allow abortion to run rampant? What are we to do when governments and authorities sow seeds of systemic racism? What are we to do when governments and authorities destroy life at any level? What are we to do when governments and authorities commit genocide? What are we to do when governments and authorities attack the church, persecuting and executing?

We are to submit.

Now if you’re like me, you probably think that doesn’t sound right at all. In fact, it makes you bristle and bow up. Submission is a term that shows weakness, that makes us think of being pinned to the mat in a wrestling match. Yet, despite our desire to be our own governing authorities, we are called in Scripture to submit to those God has established over us.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority – 1 Peter 2:13a

These verses still rub me the wrong way. If you’re like me, it’s okay to acknowledge that. We don’t like being led, governed, being told what to do. We have grown up in a culture that tells us we are governing ourselves. That doesn’t line up with Romans and 1 Peter. We are called to submit to authority over us, because authorities over us have been put in place by God. We are called to submit to authority over us, because it gives God glory, it is for ‘the Lord’s sake’.

Let’s be clear however about what submission is and isn’t.

SUBMISSION ISN’T SILENCE.

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to submit. Submission doesn’t mean keeping quiet about sin and injustice. There isn’t a country in the world (that I know of) that fully lines up all of their laws and legislations with the commands and character of God. That kind of place doesn’t exist in a Genesis 3 world. So what that means for us as Christians is that the countries we reside in have sinners at the helm and these leaders won’t always lead their country into conformity with the cause and commands of Christ.

In those moments, we are given the right and responsibility to speak up.

Now, there is a way to speak up however. Facebook fights and Twitter clap-backs aren’t the way. Instead, raise awareness. Go to the source. Model it in your own local community. Be humble. Be kind. We have a world full of slacktivists unfortunately, those of us who write about what we should change in our country without striving to do just that at a local level. Man, I’m bad at that.

Submission is not silence. It is however words spoken in kindness and humility, actions taken in a local community, not violent riots.

SUBMISSION SOMETIMES INCLUDES SUFFERING.

Oh how I wish at times that this wasn’t true, but alas it is. When we submit to the government that we are under, that can sometimes lead to suffering.

Earlier today I watched a video, it was a clip of a sermon from a pastor in China named Wang Yi. This pastor was the epitome of what I am writing about in this blog. He was telling his congregation, with much passion, that they were called to speak up and tell the president and leaders of their country that they were sinners in need of the grace of God. He was saying that they could best exemplify and extend the grace of God to these sinful men by suffering. Over and over he attested that if they were to be persecuted and responded with grace, their sinful leadership would encounter the grace of God and turn to the Lord. He was willing to lead his people into suffering via submitting to this government that he was under!

He is now in prison for his belief in Jesus.

He is now walking out what he preached.

He is now extending the grace of God to those who hold him captive.

He was not silent in the midst of a sinful government, but he knew that he was under this government for a reason. That reason appears to be so that through persecution he could extend the grace of God!

SUBMISSION IS WITNESS.

This is the most important aspect of submitting to earthly rulers. When we do so, we are proclaiming the fact that God is ultimately governing those who govern us. Less and less people willingly submit to authority these days, and when we do this it points to the ultimately rule and reign of Jesus. Consider the following verses.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me. – Matthew 28:18 

The risen Jesus is proclaiming to His disciples that He holds all authority over all things, both in heaven and on earth.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; – Psalm 24:1 

David is proclaiming the truth that all that is in the world is the Lord’s. Everything comes under His authority!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8

Just after a short dialogue about the kingdom of God, we see Jesus telling His followers that they would bear witness to the gospel. Since this was in the midst of a dialogue on the Kingdom, you could make the argument that they are to be witnesses to the King and His Kingdom as well.

In summary, when we submit to earthly authorities, at whatever level, we are bearing witness to the One who controls all things.

So Trump and company may not have my support in all that they do, but they have my respect. They have my submission. Because I know who is on the throne.

In His Name,

Nate Roach