Mar 232012


I grew up in a small town in Michigan. After getting married, my husband and I spent time in Chicago, the Northeast and the South. Each area of the country seems to view authority a little differently.

For instance, in the Northeast my husband was careful not to disclose that he’s a pastor before getting to know someone. The title of pastor does not always evoke pleasant thoughts in that region of the country; it’s better to establish credibility before revealing your line of work.

In the South, however, the title of pastor immediately gives you authority and the position seems to come with automatic respect. So my husband still avoids telling someone he’s a pastor before getting to know them. Automatic authority isn’t his cup of tea.

Growing up, my parents taught me that just because someone has authority, it doesn’t mean they’re right (yes, they included themselves in that). I learned that while I had to listen to them, their authority didn’t afford them infallibility.

Infallibility is reserved for God and His Word.

But is that what we’re teaching our children? I realize most of us don’t actually use the word infallible to describe ourselves, but what do our words and actions teach our kids about authority?

Do we automatically take someone’s side because of their title or label? Or do we base our thoughts on the truth? Many a kid is heartbroken when his parents take the teacher’s side merely due to the title “teacher.” And there are parents who set up their kids for problems later in life because they always take the child’s side – usually because of the label “MY child.”

Are we acting like we’re infallible? 

Can we admit when we’re wrong? Do we say sorry to our kids when we mess up? Can we show proper emotion in front of others? Do we allow our kids to ask sincere questions, even if these questions challenge our viewpoint? Or are we afraid these things will diminish our authority? 

Authority is a tricky thing. It’s a good and necessary component of life. As parents, we must have authority over our children. As citizens of this country, we must submit to those in authority over us. But we must carefully examine our view of it. Let’s not let authority equal infallibility. Let’s not let authority diminish our humanity. 


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 Posted by at 10:30 am

  6 Responses to “A Theology of Authority”

  1. Such an important concept to remember. Some of the moments that made the most impression on me as a child were when my Dad apologized to me!

    And I totally know what you are talking about in reference to the different regions of the country. I've lived in SC, Boston, and Rockford (just north of Chicago). Now I am in KY which feels southern again! Amazing how different the culture is in each of those places!

  2. I love this. One of the things I plan to teach my kiddo is that he can say no and disagree with an adult. And along those lines, adults make mistakes too. I make it a point to apologize when I do something wrong, or when I've made a mistake. He'll realize that he's not the only one who makes mistakes, and like you said, that adults are just as faulty too.

    Authority doesn't mean immediate agreement or that the person with authority is always right. I want my son to be able to question everyone, including adults and his parents. If something doesn't feel right to him, I want him to be able to tell the adult no and go away.

  3. I distinctly remember my parents apologizing to me as well and it made a huge impact on me. And yes, the cultural differences in our own country are quite vast. It's been fun getting to experience so many of them.

  4. Yes, teaching our kids the ability to respectfully disagree with anyone, no matter their position, will be a lifelong skill in conflict management, self-confidence and standing up for the truth no matter who is involved.

  5. It is important to apologize to your children! My parents almost never apologized to me. I think they believed it would undermine their authority. Either that or they just don't apologize to anyone. And it was really hard for me, as an adult, to learn that not only is apologizing when you've made a mistake not the worst thing in the world to have to do, but it makes things so much better between you and the person you hurt!

  6. [...] our kids that authority doesn’t equal infallibility. Adults can and do mess [...]

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