On Eagles’ Wings
On the Sabbath, people in the synagogue were astonished, for Jesus “taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).
How did Jesus’ teaching differ from the lessons of the scribes? Personal character. His authority and integrity were apparent from his authentic relationship with God.
Unlike the scribes, who quoted experts to buttress their interpretations of God’s will in the law and traditions, Jesus spoke directly in God’s name and declared, “You have heard it said, but what I say to you is….” He had nothing to prove; the proof was in his own personal experience with God the Father.
Moreover, Jesus summoned his apostles, saying, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 20:25–26).
Thus, in Christ’s counterintuitive revolution, the greater the service, the greater the authority! How, then, do we, as Christ’s disciples, act with true authority? By our relationship to God, which defines our personal character, and that personal character is demonstrated through service. These elements in turn generate a level of dignity for the Christian that comes with positions of authority, whether we desire it or not.
In his book, How to Become a Great Boss (Hyperion 2002), Jeffrey J. Fox notes that bullies, tyrants, and autocrats are actually weak, and “their authority is a function of job position, not personal character.”
Fox describes the soaring eagle as a metaphor for dignity. Those who exemplify authority are like eagles that do not go into the hole for a rat, as do snakes, ferrets, and weasels, because they have too much class to lower themselves to that level of “shouting matches, nasty memo wars, or backbiting.”
These days, authority figures with the dignity of an eagle in government, churches, and the corporate world are an endangered species.
Some possess an autocratic, imperious style of leadership to mask personal inadequacies and insecurities.
Others undermine their own authority, character, and integrity to engage in nasty backbiting and bullying.
Still others compromise the element of service that’s essential to public office, ministerial leadership, or corporate social responsibility.
President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “bully pulpit” to describe how the US presidency was an ideal platform for presidents to use to address issues.
Yet, bullying from whatever bully pulpit—including blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages—is beneath our human dignity as people in relationship to God, upon whom we “soar on eagles’ wings” (Isaiah 40:31).
More troubling, though, is our widespread tolerance of this unseemly, shameful behavior. We’ve grown too accustomed to this new reality of undignified shouting, nastiness, and backbiting by those in positions of authority and the base form of entertainment that it seems to provide.
Why ask our leaders to soar like eagles if we’re content with them—and us—acting like weasels?