Honour is for the office not the person

A physical human being deserves no honour. Physical humans are destined to perish at some point, regardless of longevity, as designed to survive only for some duration. The degradation of the human body was designed to revert to the soil, from where it came. This is different from a person created in God’s image. Hence, Jesus manifested the degradation of the physical body on the cross.

There is a Scripture, clarifying this point, instructing young children to honour their parents, without forgetting this reality. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the most important application that would keep young people focused on survival. Failure to apply the principle would shorten their lives. It is essential, therefore, to analyze the Scripture in question, to appreciate its applicability.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV).

There can be no doubt that this is one of the favourite Scriptures, for parents, when attempting to deal with their children. But there is a vital phrase, in the area of obeying, that the children are expected not to overlook. The author included the phrase: “in the Lord.”  What does that mean, for children who desire to obey parents, according to Paul’s instructions?

Paul implies that the aspect of obeying parents included the need to be in agreement with the Lord’s teaching. For instance, a child cannot randomly obey the instruction of a parent who sends him/her to steal. She also cannot obey her parents when instructing her to commit adultery. The child would be expected to evaluate instruction from the parents, whether agreeable with the Lord’s teachings or not.

That passage reveals that the child would be freer in the Lord than in the parents concerned. The child goes out of his way to obey the parent, as long as the parent’s instruction would be in agreement with the Lord’s instruction. Parents are accorded positions of authority, only as they apply Godly information.

This datum is as important as freeing children from parental abuse. This is also as relevant as applicable to the administration of human societies. Authoritarian instructions are relevant, only when agreeing with the Lord’s Word.

We leave in a world where juniors are conduits of committing crimes, on behalf of those in authority. In government, for instance, one takes instructions to kill innocent people. The junior goes with a straight face to commit such evil, knowing that the instruction would be wrong.

The person commits the crime, but feels innocent, as obeying the superior’s instructions. The pretext used would be that one is expected to obey instructions from superiors. That junior employee would be subscribing to being “loyal” and “obedient” to those in authority. After all, there are Scriptures that are often wrongly used, to justify such nefarious activities.

“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. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience” (Romans 13:1-5 NIV).

Indeed, if Christians are known to be favoured by oppressive governments, the above scriptural reference would be at play. Christian leaders simply quote this Scripture, and then everyone is whipped into line. However, all authority belongs to the Lord. Christians are expected to submit to lawful instructions but are aware that the ultimate authority is not with human leaders.

There are very few Christian leaders, with spines, to stand up for the Lord. The majority of them take comfort in the above Scripture, incapacitating them from opposing evil. Putting trust and obedience to anything that is physical is tantamount to idolatry. One of the Ten Commandments is not to have other gods, before the living God, who is Spiritual.

Paul insinuated that there could not be any other authority under the sun, except the one installed by God. Paul’s focus was on the restoration of the Lord’s command, intended to remove confusion. Proper governance intends to remove confusion. The intentions of authority, under normal circumstances, are to instil order. Paul intended to emphasize that there could not be the principle of order without being established by God.

Confusion is not associated with God. This is where God’s people are found at loggerheads with governing authorities. Bear in mind that Paul wrote most of his epistles in prison. His incarceration was caused by maintaining his stance on Godly principles. Paul never opposed the governing authorities, but was on the side of order, obeying God rather than men. The other apostles did the same:

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’ The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross” (Acts 5:27-30 NIV).

The above passage of Scripture justifies the need to always appreciate that ultimate authority is in God. Jesus stated that all authority had been given to him. That authority cannot be shared with humans. Even in Christianity, none can claim to be in authority. This is contrary to the tradition of elevating Bishops and other Church leaders to positions of authority.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12 NIV).

This does not, necessarily, suggest confusion in Christian organizations. The Holy Spirit grants each committed member of a Christian organization, what is necessary for the enhancement of God’s work.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:3-8 NIV).

The above passage of Scripture reveals that in God’s Church no one can claim to be above others. Everyone is empowered to do what the Spirit empowers them to do. Each person functions according to the Spirit. There is no reason to elevate one member while relegating others.

The one with a leadership position does so, under Christ’s authority, so that Christ leads through him. Other members cannot blindly follow a leader who leads them astray. Gifts with other members, serve to provide checks and balances so that it becomes impossible to mislead such a group.

Each group member operates according to the Spiritual gift granted to one.  Shared responsibilities entitle respective members to be authoritative; according to their Spiritual gifts. The spiritually convicted abilities are functions of the Spiritual authority, deserving to be honoured.

From the above-stated reality one observes that, under the current set-up, God’s authority is mostly violated in Christian organizations. Full authority is granted to Bishops and Pastors. The current arrangement relegates the rest of the Church members to spectatorship, expected to faithfully pay tithes. Sadly, such members feel comfortable with that arrangement.

The Bishop, or the Pastor, puts him/herself in the position of someone who knows everything. This is even more so when the Pastor would have attended some Theological seminary, assumed to then assert His authority.

Anyone questioning some doctrine would be labelled a renegade. Everything is expected to be approved by the Pastor. One may quote Scriptures, such as the one above, but invite problems for anyone doing so. Everyone is expected to fall in line under the Pastor’s, or the Bishop’s authority.

This depicts the cause of schisms, throughout Christian history. Disgruntled believers adopt an easy way out. That justifies forming one’s own church grouping, authenticating the prescribed phenomenal schisms. The first to fall out with the Roman Catholics, which was the first Christian organization, was Martin Luther.

He died a long time ago, but His denomination continues, identified as the Lutheran Church of Christ. Calvinism and many others followed suit. This development was a reflection of the reality of deviation from Biblical teachings.

Those authorities over other Christians, do so without realizing the deviation from Christ’s teachings. Those forming their splinter groups would also be out of order. The real truth exists in that there cannot be physical human beings who would need to be granted honour in this world.

Christians are the light of the world. If perfectly applying what the Bible teaches, they would have set the trend, enlightening the political environment. All falsehoods would be eliminated. Currently, everyone is caught up in having to choose what is considered right, in one’s own eyes. This completely removes Jesus’ authority.

The irony of it is that the concerned denominational groupings use the same Bible, quoting Scriptures that invalidate others. They all claim to be followers of Jesus. But without taking the responsibility to confront those they consider to be not applying the Scriptures.

Each of those groupings would discourage their congregants from evaluating what is taught by rival groupings. It becomes hard to believe that such reasoning comes from identifying themselves as, “Christians.” Jesus directed how all matters of disagreement ought to be handled.

When truly following Jesus, Christians are a community that cannot be divided as all are wrong, except Jesus Christ. The moment one puts him/herself in the position of being right where others are viewed as wrong, the person would be lost. This describes what Jesus said would prevail in the last days:

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ.’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:3-5 NIV).

Who are the many people that Jesus said would come claiming to be the Christ? The title of being the Christ points to those claiming to be holding positions of authority. Such people may not declare being Jesus Christ. But they would be so authoritative as to assume Christ’s position.

A careful observer cannot rule out that the above Scripture highlights what prevails in current Christian denominations. The most important datum is that physical humans hold no authority, except Jesus Christ.

Everything, coming from whoever claims to be used by God, needs evaluation according to Jesus’ words. That person deserves no reverence. Christians are expected to be as free as Jesus was free, in this world. Jesus never took instructions from anyone but from God.

Christians are expected to behave likewise. Otherwise, there would be no reason for anyone to identify oneself, as a Christian. The truthfulness of this information lies in the teachings and the behaviour of Jesus.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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