Establishing Moral Authority
"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:14-15 (NIV 1984)
Talking with my son one day, I mentioned I thought I might have made a good lawyer. I love discovering facts, proving my point and standing for justice. It wasn't a real longing, just a passing comment in an afternoon filled with incidental but pleasurable conversation.
At my observation, my son adamantly replied, "You would make a horrible lawyer!"
I looked at him with curiosity and surprise dressing my face. He continued, "You would never lie. In fact, you could boast the fastest conviction rates in your ads. I can see you standing before the judge saying, 'Your honor, my client is guilty!'"
We both laughed at that comment. And I completely agreed with his assessment of my lawyering potential. I guess it's a good thing I stuck with writing.
My son made an exaggerated comment that day to make an observation about my character. We both know there are lawyers with the highest integrity. That wasn't his point. His point was his mother doesn't lie.
His comment snuggled its way into my heart and has stayed there ever since. I make a lot of mistakes in my parenting, but apparently I've done something right. My son knows the real me - the good, bad and ugly. And in this one area of my life, my son has made a crucial observation of my character: it's consistent with what I say.
I've discovered that I'm influenced most by people whose lives match their words. Interestingly, for these people, doing what's right is a natural way to honor God. Their influence over me is a by-product of that devotion, and I'm changed by watching the unspoken alignment of their talk and walk.
Jesus had both authority and influence because His character and actions completely matched His words. Twelve disciples watched His every move. Because they found no inconsistencies, they grew to trust Jesus. This gave Jesus a moral authority that superseded the authority of any other religious leader of the time.
That's the type of mother, wife and friend I want to be. I want to be pursuing God with all my heart, and in so doing, establish moral authority in my life with those closest to me. You see, I understand that even though I have authority with my children, I don't have influence unless there is consistency in my life.
Having my life match my words is one of my highest desires in life. People will eventually notice inconsistencies in my life and when they do, it erodes my influence. Sometimes, I only get one chance to influence the people around me. Sadly, once lost, moral authority is very difficult to regain.
I don't always get it right. There are plenty of times when my actions don't match my words. But my son's comment inspired me to examine my life, and see where there are inconsistencies. As I find them, I am honest about my weakness, and seek God's help to deal with them. That's the only way I'll ever develop into the woman I know God wants me to be: one who doesn't have to shout to make her point, but whose quiet actions speak louder than words.
Dear Heavenly Father, I need Your help. I want to be a woman whose life completely matches up to her words. You know there are areas where I fall short. I submit those areas to You, and ask for Your strength to be the woman You want me to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Why is moral authority so much more powerful than traditional authority? What are some of the reasons we say one thing but do another?
Identify one area of your life that doesn't match what you say you believe. (Examples might be honesty, patience, kindness, forgiveness.)
Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (NIV 1984)
Titus 2:11-12, "For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God." (NLT)