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Mary’s CliffNotes on Authority & Submission (Part 2)

One of the most dramatic signs of the change of seasons in Canada is the migration of the birds. Last weekend, Brent and I were mesmerized when dozens upon dozens of V-formations passed overhead. There were literally thousands of birds filling the sky with a steady chorus of honking.  And what was particularly fascinating – what neither of us had never ever seen before – was the migratory paths of three different types of birds, flying at three distinct altitudes and speeds, converging all at the same time.

Spellbound, we pulled over to the side of the country road, rolled down our windows, and gawked at the amazing sight.

At the lower level flew the Mallard Ducks. Their V-formations were clearly distinguishable. Above them, were white Snow Geese. It was obvious that they, too, were seeking to fly in this characteristic pattern.  But at the highest altitude, flying at a tremendous speed, with the lines of their “V-s” as crisp as an Arial font, soared the majestic Canada Geese.

I’ve been reflecting on the sight all week.  What strikes me as significant is the intuitive sense of order that these birds have. And what’s more, the beauty, freedom, and benefit that the order affords. Without it, they would never be able to fly so high, so long, or so far.

Flying in “V” formation serves at least two purposes. The most important is that it helps the birds save energy and permits them to fly longer distances. Scientists believe that Canada Geese fly in a “V” because of the “drafting” effect, where the follower goose, like a cyclist in a race, benefits from the air currents passing the leader, and thus expends less energy flying. They estimate that flying in order behind a leader adds at least 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

A secondary function of the formation is to coordinate the flock’s movements, allowing the leader to quickly, efficiently communicate changes in flight speed or direction to all members of the flock.

Not all the birds in the flock take the lead.  A select group of larger, stronger males knows it is their responsibility to serve the flock by assuming this difficult position. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another lead goose flies point. The geese know whose responsibility it is to lead (and when to lead), and whose responsibility it is to follow (and when to follow).

Canada Geese flying in V formation are an apt metaphor for the power and beauty of proper authority and submission. To a Canada Goose, following a leader is the natural, right and most beneficial thing to do. Following a leader causes the birds to excel. It maximizes their capacity to fly to full potential. It enables them to be fed and protected as part of the flock. It navigates them in the right direction and ensures they reach the right destination.

In Part 1 of this series, I gave you my CliffNotes overview of 10 important Bible truths about authority.  Here they are again in point form:

  1. God the Father is the ultimate authority. All authority originates from Him.
  2. There is an eternal authority structure within the Godhead.
  3. Authority and equality are compatible concepts.
  4. Godly authority is humble, self-giving, loving, gentle, merciful, righteous and just.
  5. Godly authority is delegated, not taken upon oneself. God delegates authority so that others may act in His Name, and on His behalf.
  6. Every authority answers to a higher authority, and all answer to God the Father.
  7. Authority can be re-delegated. (for good or evil)
  8. The Purpose of Authority is:
      – To display the glory of God
      – To display the glory of the Gospel
      – To enable people to serve as God’s representatives
      – To be a channel of God’s righteousness, blessing and protection
  9. Rebellion against/neglect of God’s authority (and rightful delegated authority) is sin.
  10. Issues of authority and submission are at the epicenter of the cosmic battle.

We live in a culture that despises authority. It views authority as an unavoidable evil rather than an intrinsic good – a last-ditch mechanism to deal with criminals, and not something that should be part of the everyday lives of ordinary people. Outside of the parameter of government, “authority” is equated with self-exaltation, domination and abuse (and many would likewise accuse governing officials of these sins).  The prevailing attitude is that we should resist, undermine, and obliterate authority structures as much as possible to keep them from encroaching on our personal rights and freedoms. The proper boundaries of governmental authority is another whole discussion, but the point I’m making here is that people think that “authority” – in general – is a very negative thing.

Unfortunately, this attitude has also permeated the Church. Believers no longer think about authority in a positive, biblical way. But the fact that all authority belongs to God, and the fact that authority is integral in inter-Trinitarian relationships ought to – in and of itself- convince us that godly authority is right, good, necessary, beneficial, and beautiful.

The world would have us think that authority and submission are for birds. But if God’s order is a blessing for the birds, how much more so is it a blessing for those He has created in His own image? Godly authority is right. It is good. It is protective. It enables us to soar. As C.S. Lewis said, “Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live.”

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[This is Part 2 of Mary’s CliffNotes on Authority and Submission. Read Part 1 HERE. There are more parts to come. Next, I plan to outline the overall, general teaching of the Bible on submission.  After that, I plan to zoom in to deal with the whole issue of authority and submission in marriage. (The “S” word for women… yikes!!!)

There is method to my madness. I believe that it’s important for us to have a telescopic, systematic, BIG, theological perspective on what authority and submission are all about before we can ever hope to understand the specific, microscopic application of those principles to individual marriages.  So the first few parts of my CliffNotes don’t deal specifically with marriage, just with authority and submission in a general sense.

I encourage you to spend some time and energy thinking about these biblical concepts. As you do, I believe you will increasingly see that, “Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight ARE the very lines along which our spirits live.”]

© Mary A. Kassian


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About The Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian, the founder of Girls Gone Wise, is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and distinguished professor of Women's Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

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