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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

autonomy and authority

“When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests and Levites.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 17:19-20)

Autonomy [aw-ton-uh-mee] – independence, as of the will or one’s actions; self-government; subject only to its own laws.

Authority [uh-thawr-i-tee] – a power or right delegated or given.

All too often I think we equate freedom with autonomy, when that is really not the case at all.  Freedom is not about total autonomy; freedom is the ability to thrive and flourish under the proper authority. 

Even the king of Israel was not given total autonomy, he was God’s servant to his people.  That’s why he was instructed to put himself under the authority of God’s word and God’s law by keeping it with him, by reading it constantly, and by following it carefully all of the days of his life.  For when a leader is not under authority, he has a tendency to go astray, either to the right or to the left.  He starts to look after his own interests, rather than those of the people under his care.  He puts himself above the law and, thus, above all of those who are under that law.  He becomes full of himself, impressed his own observations, enamored by his own wisdom, inspired by his own voice, and seduced by his own power.  He becomes his own authority, which is never good.

Leadership in God’s kingdom, however, is meant to be much different than that.  It is a life under authority.  Leadership in God’s kingdom is not a life of isolation, but of community.  It is not a life of power, but of humility.  Not a life of taking, but of giving.  Not a life of becoming more, but of becoming less.  It is not a life of independence, but of dependence. 

So be very careful of the seduction of autonomy, it is a dangerous thing.  It is one of the surest ways to get lost in this life, without not even knowing it.

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