My husband and I recently purchased a new house with an amazing property. Everyday we’re discovering new treasures as we walk the premises.

Along with this property, we acquired a garden. It’s very apparent that someone took great care of this garden, at least at some point. A friend came over today and pointed out some of the different varieties of plants and flowers within that garden.

How exciting it is that I have my very own garden! It’s mine! I have authority over these plants, bushes, and flowers. What will I do with them all?

For starters, I’ve decided that I’m going to tell the violets that they have to be hydrangeas. Yes, I like hydrangeas much better. The violets will have to change for me.

If any plants get a little too wild, I’ll yell at them and hack them down to size. Perhaps I’ll just uproot them if they continue to disobey me.

Then, every once in a while, I’ll trample all over my plants to really show them who’s boss, lest they forget. I am, after all, their authority and it’s their job to submit.

Ok. Obviously, I’m not being serious. I’m trying to make a point about how we, as Christians, use our God-given authority or position as parents, leaders, spouses, etc. in a way that God never intended.

What does it mean to have authority? What does it mean to take dominion? What does it mean to be the “head” within a marriage?

Authority Gone Awry

For some odd reason, Christians have pushed aside the example of love and humility that Jesus set for us and have adopted the mindset of the world.

Instead of stewarding this planet well–taking care of animals, cultivating land in responsible ways, recycling, etc.–we trash it, control it, suppress it under out feet. “It will all burn someday,” we explain, as if our actions have no consequences.

Instead of disciplining, loving, and empowering our children, we control and manipulate them to make them extensions of ourselves. “I’m the boss!” we roar. “What I say goes!” And we never give any thought to the needs and desires of our children. We force them to suppress their emotions, not understanding that their emotions will help us to see their hearts, who they truly are. “No time for feelings. Just obey.”

Instead of loving as Christ loves the church, husbands feel it is their duty to put women “in their place”. “Wives must submit!” Instead of tending to his wife like a gardener would his beautiful garden, husbands trample her underfoot. “Don’t confront me! Don’t question me! I’m in charge!”

Instead of empowering the church to rise up and encouraging each person to find his or her God-given purpose, leaders pursue their own agendas. “Bigger! Better! Get them tithing! Get them serving!” Congregants get shoved into the machine and forgotten. This is no family. This is an enterprise.

The Upside Down Kingdom

I hear the term “upside down kingdom” in reference to the Kingdom of God, but do we even know what that means?

Christians have turned into a bunch of bullies! Look at us! Whatever or whomever is weaker, less valued, stigmatized, smaller, or poorer gets stepped on, shoved down, used, abused, controlled, or forgotten.

The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of empowerment! Christ humbled Himself to lift us up! He used His high position to empower the weak! That is our model.

Kingdom Way of Life

We take authority over the earth by nurturing it, tending to it, and bringing out its beauty.

We parent our children in a way to bring forth their God-given identities. Speak life to your children. Empower them; don’t control them! Protect them with safe boundaries and teach them to have healthy relationships with others.

[Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” -Matthew 18:2-6

Husbands, being the head does not mean you’re in charge; it means you are a source–a source of love, life, wisdom, and maturity. But the only way to be a source to your family is to be connected to The Source (read this). Your relationship with God comes first.

If you do not turn to God first, you will be a whiny, immature, demanding husband and father. You will demand control and respect without earning it. You will be a vacuum instead of a source of love.

You will know God is flowing through you when you see the fruit–a confident and secure wife, free to be who God made her to be, and children who are secure in your love for them.

Leaders, get to know those you lead. Find out what their strengths are and encourage them in their giftings. Don’t use your position to gain control or pursue your own agenda. If you’re leading to meet your own needs, something is very wrong and this will breed dysfunction.

The world’s way is control, fear, abuse, and shame. The ugly fruit of this is more of the same.

The Kingdom of God brings life to all it touches. It is freedom and empowerment. What are you using your strength, authority, and position for?

The world says, “control.”

God says, “freedom.”

The world says, “suppress.”

God says, “empower.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” -Mark 4:30-32