Kevin DeYoung, Christ Covenant Church
It's a fair question - is Christianity just a way for some people to control others?
I guess the first thing to say is that sadly I'm sure that's been true. The church has been around for 2000 years, and there have been a lot of good things done in the name of Christ, and unfortunately there's been some bad things too. So I'm sure it's quite possible, maybe even in your own life, that there have been religious leaders who've been hurtful or demeaning in some ways.
The fact of the matter is: we're all sinners. Even Christians, sometimes especially Christians: and sometimes God has a lot of work to do on us.
But even though that may be true, and it's a fair question, what if instead of thinking of the word control, we thought of a different word - we thought of authority.
Because - we might as well be honest - there's no escaping the fact that Jesus has authority. He lived and ministered and spoke as one who uniquely had authority. In fact, the very last thing he said on earth was: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The way I figure it is - there will always be authority here. You're going to have government or families or institutions, and even if you could get rid of those things there'd still be friends who will have expectations of you. You may even have that “voice” inside you - we all have a conscience - telling us some things are good or not.
There will always be a sense of “ought”. There will always be some authority.
So I figure, if someone or something is going to have authority - I'd like it to be Jesus.
Jesus is the one who is always good. Part of our problem is we've all seen authority abused - but Jesus never abuses it. He doesn't make mistakes. He's the only one in the world who can have absolute power and it doesn't corrupt him absolutely - it doesn't corrupt him at all.
He's the sort of king, the Bible tells us, who's a good king. He's for us when we believe in him - he's not against us.
And the bottom line is that if Christianity is about Jesus' authority, then it can't be - or it shouldn't be - about controlling other people.
You’re always going to have expectations. If you're on a team, that team has certain rules. If you're a part of a family, there are certain kinds of expectations. So the same thing is true if we follow Jesus - there are certain things we ought to do, certain ways that we need to live.
But it's not a kind of manipulation - it's not a domineering kind of authority. You see, Jesus doesn't take away our brains, he doesn't force us to do things against our will. That's not the kind of control we're talking about.
But he does have authority in the world, and for Christians, we want him to have authority over our lives. Because the way we look at it, he offers us joy and freedom and grace and forgiveness. And if all of that is wrapped up in Jesus - and all of that can be ours when we follow him and trust in him and what he did for us on the cross - then that's the kind of authority that’s actually good news.