According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus taught that his followers should not exercise authority over one another. Instead, they are to serve one another:
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV)
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26 ESV)
In these passages, it seems that Jesus not only prohibited his followers from exercising authority over one another (even the apostles), but he also told us who we should follow (who are our leaders), that is, those who serve.
Today, however, there are many people who conclude that elders (or other leaders in the church) CAN exercise authority over other followers of Jesus. They can make decisions. They can decided what is to be done when the church meets. They can exercise church discipline. They can judge between doctrines.
This raises a question for me: How can we exercise authority without exercising authority? In other words, how can elders exercise authority over other followers of Jesus while living according to Jesus’ teaching in this area?
Is it possible to have it both ways? Can I make decisions for someone without exercising authority over that person? Was Jesus only prohibiting certain kinds of authority, but allowing other kinds of authority? Maybe Jesus was allowing good authority, but prohibiting bad authority? If so, how do we decide which authority is good and which authority is bad?
These are honest questions. I don’t understand. I’ve read the books and studied the arguments. I don’t understand how someone is supposed to exercise authority while following Jesus’ instructions in these passages.