I think we struggle around the idea of authority in our culture today in part because of our emphasis on personal autonomy. Whereas sovereignty is ultimate power over self and others (like a nation or king), autonomy is power over self, as in self-rule. Autonomy specifically desires to be free of external influences.
I don’t want to vilify personal autonomy—I quite like having mine. But in our culture, while we strive to be authentic and independent, we also work really hard to influence others (e.g. social media or politics) to validate our ways of living and thinking. Ironically, it’s not that we don’t value external influence—it’s that we would rather be the influencers, whether through persuasion or force. Our personal autonomy has a way of pursuing sovereignty by establishing some kind of power over others.
As Christ-followers, the equation of autonomy gets flipped. We know that Jesus the King has ultimate authority over Heaven and Earth. And yet we can also see how Jesus, as a human being, used His autonomy as a vehicle for humility rather than power:
[Christ], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV).
Jesus placed His own autonomy under the sovereignty of the Father—and by doing so, walked willingly all the way to the cross for the sake of the world. Jesus is, and always should be, our greatest influencer.
Let’s pray: Father, thank you for Jesus and for your Holy Spirit. Please help me to choose Your voice today over anything else. And if I am to be an influence to anyone today, let them see Christ in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.