Monday, May 19, 2008

Contrasting Worldly Hierarchy with God's Love

Stu Weber wrote a book (back in the 90's, I think) entitled Locking Arms. As I recall, its main thrust built around the idea that deep relationships open to believers through the Presence of Jesus. In that discussion, I have never forgotten something he identified. The world system functions according to a flow chart, which is backwards from what humans need:


In the world, we must always answer to a hierarchy of authority, whether within government, business, education, even ecclesiastic or on the street. Authority holds the one ruled to standards of accountability. When someone functions well meeting accountability standards, affirmation may or may not flow from the authority. We receive no human affirmation from the IRS, but often a boss trained in how to increase productivity will congratulate a worker on a good job. Possibly such congratulations will become comments that are genuine respect and acceptance on the part of the boss for the worker.

God's love:

God has already communicated His profound acceptance through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. His affirmation flows concurrently with this acceptance. As a function of the level of acceptance and affirmation we receive through our faith, we make ourselves accountable in full surrender to His authority. How would our experience within the Body of Christ be altered if we all learned to mirror the Father's order in relationship? What if people immediately felt from us our acceptance and affirmation tied to what we knew within our hearts as the love of God? Would you feel more secure in your relationships if complete acceptance were granted to you by brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of your maturity level? What if church leaders did not see themselves as "over" others? How would your experience be different, if you recognized you were treated with the same respect and deference as all others?


Terry Henry said...

I think that you are definitely on to something here.

In God's economy, to go up you must go down, to find life you must die, etc.

Christ exercised His authority over the disciples by washing their feet.

Herein lies the rub: how do we as a community "get there". How do we live within one structure while operating within another. Even though we can see it, it seems so confusing at times—almost like being off balance.

Maybe that is what I see in the eyes: a knowing that we can fly but not quite being able to locate the runway.

ded said...

On to something? I don't know.

However, I believe we can trust everything to the spirit of Jesus. Everything, including our theology!

ded said...

After a night's sleep, I have an answer for your question. I think we must determine to live as if the structure we must operate in is of little significance. We express the abundant life of God according to the structure that gives us life as if it were the dominant status quo. In these Shadowlands, we live as if there are no shadows.

Steve Sensenig said...

In these Shadowlands, we live as if there are no shadows.

That is an excellent way of putting it!!

I have been frustrated by the widespread notion that for a Christian to "be real", they must talk about earthly things. If you talk about life in Christ, you are not "being real".

But what if we accept the revealed notion (revealed in the pages of scripture) that our "reality" IS the kingdom? What if we live as if we are fully in that kingdom now??

I think the impact on our own lives would be quite dramatic, not to mention the impact on our community of believers around us, and even the community-at-large.

George said...

You present this order:

God's love: Acceptance

Interesting. I don't know that I would have done it that way, but instead:

Authority: I AM.
Accountability: All have sinned
God's love/acceptance: Jn 3.16a
Affirmation: Jn 3.16b

So the difference with my list versus Weber's world-system list is in the order of the latter two. However, I'd disagree with his ordering, as in my experience acceptance precedes affirmation (We affirm those whom we've come to accept, and we affirm more those whom we accept more. Even when affirmations are done to boost production, first we accept the recipient as a contributor to production.).

Maybe the differences flow from Weber's premise regarding "what humans need."

ded said...

Great to see you commenting again here! Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

I have been searching for the book since you left your message. I wanted to make sure I had not misrepresented the author. Alas, the book is not to be found; I probably lent it, and it has not made its way back.

Anyway, as I remember, the author (and myself here) was not suggesting that God's authority was somehow not central to His character and nature. Rather, that there is something often missed by Christians in their relationships. Your re-ordering is part of the picture in a larger way I think, than what I was trying to communicate.

Anyway, the missing element is emotional authenticity fully engaging others through unconditional love. Christian relationships are often predicated on many things, but not unconditional love. This mirrors our view of God and our inability to know His willingness to be "intimate" with us relationally. Further, Christians often fail to be able to authentically communicate the unconditional love of God, while we carry the message of redemption. However, the approach to evangelism was not the point of the post.

I have largely attempted to alter my teaching in the classroom to effect what I believe Weber communicated about authority and acceptance. Consider the typical public school classroom: Twenty-five individuals, fully children in judgment, temperament and maturity. These same influenced by an emotional/cultural mix varied from affuence and blinding self-indulgence to kids bounced around in the foster care system since dad is in prison and mom is a crack addict. I need to establish authority over all of them and get them to work together to have any chance at educating them. If I fail to establish authority, it will be useless mayhem.

However, if I insist they recognize
my authority first, I have set myself up for failure. That rebellious fallen nature immediately lets me know that ain't
gonna happen! Not to mention, the spirit of the age has undermined any notion of choosing to submit to a socially ordained authority in teachers. The worldly parent is more likely to question my authority over insisting the child recognize it.

When I cast myself fully in the love of God I know within and communicate my acceptance first and build on this with verbal affirmation in my relationship with them, then gradually ratchet up the accountability, guess what? They recognize my authority without me even mentioning it. I can ask for their attention and cooperation and most give it quickly. The ones who don't aren't usually refusing to, their minds are too active to notice my voice has asked something of them. I do not demand or insist they do as I ask because I am the authority. They are choosing submission based on our relationship. Even some of the most emotionally conflicted children begin to respond. Why is this so? It is the power of love.

I am glad you shared your thoughts. I agree humanity needs to understand the absolute authority which is God's domain alone. Or have I missed your point and didn't understand what you wanted me to see in your post!

Jimazing said...

I wish I could have been one of your students.

George said...

ded, I think we're on the same page.

You succeed as a teacher by first recognizing your authority as the teacher. But instead of expecting that your students will simply perceive that authority because of cultural conditioning, you communicate it by recognizing their subordinate roles and affirming their worths. They appreciate the affirmations and respond in ways that attract more affirmations. In time, they become more accepting of your authority and their subordination.

I think your strategy is wise, Christian, and realistic. I agree it's how God wants you to relate. There may be some parallels in the pre-Fall Garden narrative, but I'm struggling to find them post-Fall.

If you do get the Weber book back, it would be interesting to know if the author had a biblical narrative basis for his hierarchy or if it was a theoretical construction of his own.

But regardless, it's been profitable for me to consider all of this. Thanks for your service, ded.

ded said...


I'd be awfully old if I had been your teacher.


Thanks for the follow-up comment. I think we are on the same page as well. You are insightful to state that I begin from a position of authority. That is true, though I had not thought about it. God initiates from a position of authority. I think His intent in all His authority is to establish His love as the order of life. If order and authority go hand in hand, then it seems reasonable to conclude that authority and love do as well. This would then appear to me to be the failure of the worldly hierarchy.

Authority/order is intended but contrived as a separate reality from love.

Just some rambling thoughts.

George said...

Now that is insightful: "...His love as the order of life."

Human authorities default to using order to obtain results of their choosing; God uses order to do love.

George said...

ded --

If there's an email address on your site, I can't find it. Regardless, in view of your comments on teaching, you may appreciate this reflection on a teacher who made a difference:

ded said...

Thanks, George. I enjoyed the link you posted. I like reading stories of effective teachers.

I haven't provided an e-mail on the blog. Maybe I should do that.