Friday, February 20, 2015

Herbert W. Armstrong Taught Loving Authority

The Church of God has taught government and authority in the Church. But the Church has also taught that authority should be used in love. The one in authority should exercise his authority for the good of those under his authority. Those who supervise others should have outgoing concern for their welfare and should serve their needs.

The kind of authority this describes has been called "loving authority". More recently, some have labeled it, "submission", in the sense of those in authority "submitting" to the needs of those under authority.

But whether you call it "loving authority" or "submission", it is not a new concept, a new doctrine, a new teaching, a new idea, a new policy, or a new model of governance. It has been taught by Mr. Armstrong from the beginning. It is not new in any sense.

Mr. Armstrong tried to practice it, and I am sure many evangelists and ministers under his authority also tried to practice it. Did all succeed perfectly? No. We are human and make mistakes. But I think most understood the concept and tried to practice it. Perhaps some made no effort to practice it. God is their judge.

But it was always taught and acknowledged as the right way to exercise authority, the right kind of government.

The Bible certainly teaches it. Christ set the example. He has authority, but He exercised that authority in love, in a spirit of outgoing concern for those under His authority. He loved His disciples.

"You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15).

Christ also taught the principle of loving authority to His disciples, not only by His example, but by His command and instruction. "And He said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called "benefactors." But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves' " (Luke 22:25-27).

An example many of us are familar with is the example of parenting. Parents have authority over their children, but they should exercise that authority for the good of their children, in love, to protect them and teach them and even to serve them.

"Loving authority" is one term to describe this, and I think it is an excellent term to make the meaning clear. But it can be described other ways as well. Living Church of God teaches the principle of "servant leadership", which is closely related.

And some, as I mention, refer to this principle as "submission" or "mutual submission".

But in using the term "submission" to describe loving authority, we have to be careful about what we mean by submission.

If "submission" of one in authority to those under his authority means, "submission to the needs of those under his authority", then it can be a good term to describe it, provided we all understand what that means. But if it is intended to mean, "submission to the choices and decisions and will of those under his authority", that is not what is taught in the Bible.

The Bible does not speak of Christ submitting to the decisions and will of anyone but the Father. But it would not be wrong to say He submitted to the needs of others. But not their will. Why? People do not always know what is best, even for themselves. Parents know this about their children. Children do not know what is best for them. That is why parents must make the decisions, even when those decisions go against what the child might want at the moment. Yet, new parents who have to get up in the middle of the night to feed or care for a baby understand the need to "submit" to the needs of their child.

Christ submitted to the needs of others. He healed others. He served them even when He would rather have rested or been alone (Matthew 14:10-14).

But He never submitted to the will of man (Mark 8:31-33, Matthew 21:23-27, Luke 12:13-14, Luke 9:53-56, Mark 10:35-40).

Likewise, one in authority should submit to the will of God and of those over him, but should submit to the needs of those under him.

One should be careful, in using or hearing the term "submit" in regard to someone in authority submitting to those under his authority, to understand this distinction.

We submit to the legitimate needs of others, to serve them and love them, but we should not always submit to their will, their choices, their decisions, or their demands.

Anyone who uses the idea of "submission" to accuse someone who has been over them in authority of wrong governance for not submitting to their will, then uses scriptures and examples in the Bible that teach sacrificing to serve the needs of others, and call that "submission", and do this to justify rebelling against the one who had authority over them, is using the term "submission" to blur the issue. A good parent will not blur the distinction between what their child wants and what is good for their child. A good parent will submit to what his or her children need and is good for them, but not always to what they want.

For a pastor or Church of God leader to sacrifice for the needs of the membership is godly. For a pastor to rebel against a leader because the leader does not submit to the pastor's will on a particular subject is not.

Of course, members can and often should submit to one another, as the scripture says (Ephesians 5:18-21), and this can sometimes include submitting to the desires and choices of others as well as their needs, when appropriate. Even a parent can submit to the choice of his or her child when the parent says, "Ok, what would you like to do today? Do you want to go the park or the zoo?" But we must not use the concept of mutual submission to say that a leader or one in authority MUST ALWAYS submit to the desires, wishes, choices, and decisions, or even to advice, of his subordinates.

Did Christ submit to mankind? If you mean, did He submit to the needs of mankind, the answer is yes, He submitted to our needs by being a sacrifice for us. But if you mean, did He submit to the will of mankind, that is, the decisions, the choices, and the desires of mankind even when those desires are wrong or based on error, the answer is, no, He did not submit to mankind.

Another distinction that is useful to keep in mind when discussing government is the distinction between the form or structure of government, and the right use of government. You can have the right form or structure of governance in the Church, yet misuse and abuse that form of governance. The right form of governance is top-down, hierarchical, yet that form of governance, like any other form of governance, can be misused and abused. A leader of a fellowship can abuse and harm the members of that fellowship. But that does not mean that top-down governance is the wrong structure. God the Father and Jesus Christ rule the universe through top-down government, and they never misuse their authority. Likewise, when we are in the Kingdom of God, our authority will be given to use from Christ, top-down, but we will never abuse our authority.

Mankind understands the possibility of abuse of authority and has invented democracy to try to minimize or prevent abuse. Man's idea is, if the one in authority depends on the vote of the people to stay in office, he is less likely to rule abusively, and if he does, the people can remove him by voting him out of office. But that is not God's way in the Church and will not be practiced in the Kingdom of God.

Here are links to related posts:

"New Church Coming out of COGaic and 'Mutual Submission' ", dated January 5, 2014, link:

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