Authority can be lost.
All earthly superiors must take this truth to heart.
Elders, Governors, Husbands and all other superiors have suddenly found themselves without the authority they once possessed. Elders have been deposed. Governors have been removed. Husbands have been divorced.
Certainly, this is not always the fault of the one who has lost their authority. But much of the time it is, and if so, by God’s grace – this loss can be averted if we sought the wisdom of the Bible.
The Larger Catechism is helpful in understanding how one in authority may, by God’s grace, preserve the authority they have been entrusted with. It summarizes the Bible’s teaching on this topic when it says:
Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?.
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well, and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honour to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them
The first aspect of preserving authority is to recognize that God has entrusted the position of superior to the one who has it (Romans 13:1). As such, they must do all things in accordance with His divine, revealed, will. That includes loving, praying, blessing, instructing, counsel, admonishing, etc. those under their care. It also includes protecting and providing for them as well.
But their carriage is also vital. Grave, wise, holy, and exemplary. One in authority must ask if their behavior is reflective of that.
In these ways one in authority not only procures glory to God, which is of first importance, but also brings honor to themselves and preserves their authority.
Those who break these duties to God and neighbor may well find the Lord to release them from their charge due to their sin in this area.
But what if this has been you? Never forget that “the Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (Psalm 145:1).
So, ask the Lord for forgiveness, for your deficiencies in this area. Ultimately, it is the glory of God that you are seeking, not your own. Then, go and ask those that have been entrusted to for their forgiveness. After that, walk in new obedience, with God-given wisdom and grace, seeking to remedy whatever difficulties you have caused, moving forward in God-given wisdom and God-given grace.
At the same time, inferiors must not despise those set above them whose behavior does not match the ideal. After all, as sinners, we are predisposed to magnify the faults of those that God has set over us. Yes, there are some actions which call for the lawful deposition or divorce of a superior. However, the Bible makes those cases clear.
Overall, those of us under the authority of another are to love them, honor them, and bear with their infirmities. The Larger Catechism teaches us this.
Q. 127. What is the honour that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honour which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behaviour; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defence, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honour to them and to their government.
May God help both superiors and inferiors fulfill their calling, giving Glory to God, and love to each other.