I wrote previously that
...trust is the willingness to feel badly [because of our relationships with one another], and deciding that in the light of the healing and love we’re receiving from Christ and his Church, we will stay with one another, and be obedient to him anyway.
If we will risk this, if we will accept the potential pain that comes with these relationships into which he calls us, then we can obey.
When discussing Clement's "come to Jesus talk" with the Corinthians, I wondered when one is justified in throwing off authority? Clearly, it depends on the nature of that authority.
I probably don't need to describe the destructive context of obedience, which is possibly what many of you are thinking of right now: signing over one's personhood to some powerful or charismatic figure who will take a very paternalistic role because one is just not clever or good enough to make one's own decisions. Often the decisions made by the authority figure will be for his own benefit, or the perceived benefit of "the community" at the utter expense of the individual.
Obviously, that's not godly authority, nor holy obedience.
The proper context of obedience occurs in communities in which the members are dedicated to one another for "the long haul." If God really is transforming us in that context of commitment, we can trust one another to care for us. Authority is not found in the dictates of a central figure, but in the counsels of the community at large.
We are responsible to one another, to listen.
We are responsible for one another, in healing, truth-telling, and sharing burdens.
Life in God's New Community draws us out to share our brokenness and confusion, as well as the joys and disappointment of everyday life. That intimacy is a gift we give God by handing it to one another. The recipient of the trust has an obligation to speak truth honestly.
Here's where it gets really difficult: that whole "agents of redemption and change" stuff.
The intimacy comes around to redemption, not mere catharsis. We do this because we believe that the Holy Spirit gives wisdom to the community for its healing. That wisdom will come through the counsel of friends in the community. That means that we have an obligation to listen our friends. Not to agree, and certainly not to obey slavishly, but to create a non-defensive place in ourselves in which we can really listen.
There is pain in that.
We're used to feeling pain because authority so often negates personhood instead of offering God's healing. But in trusting, loving relationships, it means something else. It's the pain that comes with realizing that we as individuals cannot be the final arbiter of God's will. It's the pain that comes when we cannot live according to our momentary whims - for we are dedicated to something bigger than ourselves. It's the pain that comes with learning we don't have the freedom - or damning responsibility - to orchestrate our own redemption.
There is another freedom in that. It's the freedom of listening to a Jesus who isn't mediated to us only by our own understanding. It's the freedom that comes with not needing to be right all the time in order to be "successful." It's the freedom and rest that comes with knowing that this community shares one's burdens. One does not succeed or fail alone.
What do you think? What is healthy authority? What is healthy, holy obedience?