The word ‘authority’ in English means power, may it be shared or absolute, to see and make things happen, to decide, to establish, to govern, to manage etc. The Oxford Dictionary of English Language gives certain explanations to the word authority. Yet they, seem to me at least, need more clarity to be understood from the point of view that I want to address upon, namely, a Christian theological approach. In Greek, the word authority is ‘exousia’, meaning from or out of the being, i.e. something that emanates from or out of the being of a person or a thing. The Sun, for instance, since radiates light in day, has the ultimate authority over the day!
There are two types of authority, namely, external authority and internal authority. When a policeman asks us to park the car at another place, we obey him because of lesser conviction, but of better respecting the authority that is given to him by the Federal Law of the land. This is external authority or we can call it human authority. Bishops, for another instance, have only external authority due to their administrational insignia or the miter. Let us take the example of a simple person, who goes to a supermarket to buy something, of which he or she has seen an advertisement in the TV. The person does it due to the conviction that the advertisement commands a kind of external authority over him or her. A saintly person, whom we respect from within, on the contrary, has always an internal authority over us, which is not imposed by any law or any worldly instance. Law has most of the times external authority and that is why legal people, i.e. advocates or lawyers, always look for the loopholes of the law! Yet there is the spirit of the law that indicates the internal authority to the law. We would like to more concentrate on the internal authority, namely, authority from within or an authority that makes one feel compelled from within out of conviction or in short, authority from or out of the being of a person. This is divine authority.
Internal authority demands always responsibility. We take a decision as manager for instance, to go this way or that way. The result can either be positive or negative. Now, the usual human reaction is to own credit for success and to put blame upon others, when the project fails. Now, both are not reactions of a true authority. True authority is to own responsibility of the result, what ever the result may. Keeping in mind that the basic human psychology demands appreciation, it seems to be more affirmative to say that the true authority rejects shallow, peripheral or superfluous appreciation. Rather, true authority enjoys itself in satisfaction and beauty over the end result.
Responsibility in authority means also to be true to the instances, which have bestowed authority upon one body. There is nobody in this world, who has not been bestowed authority upon by somebody. Positively said, everyone, who has authority, has been given authority by someone! The President or the Prime Minister of a Nation is an elected body by the people of that Nation. An emissary of a Nation is bestowed authority upon by the Government of that Nation. A manager has been bestowed authority upon by the Board of Trustees or Governors of that firm, company or MNC. If one owns a business, he or she has been given authority by the people, who contribute to the success of that business, by a smaller or larger way. In short, authority is always given and it is always mutual. In other words, we are given authority and we give authority! If one is theistic, authority is given by God and therefore, it is divine!
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