I’m sure you’ve been told before, you should not question Godly authority. Typically, the verse most often quoted in the bible to support this is Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Scriptures like this are usually brought up by leaders when they teach on authority, submission or covering. However, every time I have heard it taught, it always lacks a context of love. Authority, submission and covering are gifts from God and are infinitely important principles, but they imply relationship and love when discussing church and leadership. In addition, there are justifiable limits to submission and there should be. For example, we would not expect a women to submit to an abusive husband. In the same way, but certainly less extreme, do we really think that God believes that just because you decided to walk in off the street and plop down in the pew one day, that the pastor there now owns you?
If you ask me, the definition of authority without love is “police.” Are our pastors there to police us? Obeying leadership is a principle, but I believe the Godly form of submission is found in Ephesians 5:26-26 where God instructs men to love their wives and then after demonstrating love to their wives, women are told to submit to their husbands. Submission always and naturally follows love. This is the same principle we see elsewhere in scripture between us, the bride of Christ in willful submission to Christ, the groom. The bride willingly submits to the Groom because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). I’m always amused by how many politicians that get into trouble because they believe in the literal meaning of the word submission but do not understand the spirit of it. I think this happens because they are not taught that love is required before submission is given and as a consequence, they cannot properly speak about it without it sounding like misogyny. Therefore, these politicians always get caught in their own words when they say something about it publicly, leading to inevitable howls in the media that follow. These are men who have been told, “Women, submit to your husbands,” without understanding what submission is in the context of love. Where there is Godly leadership, including that in his church, that is “otherly” and seeks first His kingdom, it will love first and when this happens submission will follow much like one person leads another in a dance.
Teachings of submission, covering, and authority, in the church should never be taught without love first being taught as the catalyst for it. Where there’s love, people in relationship will willingly bow a submitted knee to leaders to such a degree that the Hebrews 13:17 verse will rarely need to be mentioned. In fact, they’ll do it every time. But they don’t just bow a knee because a verse in the bible said so without taking the greater context of biblical love and relationship into consideration. To do so turns our pastors into policemen and loses sight of why leaders are in ministry to begin with.