Next to Jesus, Paul may be the Bible’s best example of how to handle spiritual authority with wisdom and care. No one could accuse Paul of being weak, timid or unwilling to say hard things. But rather than writing letters filled with orders and commands (which his apostolic authority gave him the right to do), he wrote letters filled with sound arguments, passionate care, and a Jesus-centered winsomeness.
…though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you…
On either side of the equation, authority is not an easy thing. Submitting to authority requires humility alien to our prideful hearts. And using authority well requires a selflessness equally alien. For parents and and husbands and elders, for people given spiritual authority over others, what do we do with that authority?
Rehoboam may be the best example of the worst use of authority in Scripture (see 1 Kings 12). Ascending to the throne after his father Solomon, he had to ponder (like all leaders) what type of leader he was going to be. Authoritarian? Gentle and winsome? He had two sets of counselors pulling him in two directions.