You have authority over people when you love them unconditionally
A passage in the Gospel that I often pass upon as insignificant intrigues me:
[Jesus] sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” (Luke 19: 29–31).
This seems an insignificant detail in the whole constellation of the words and deeds Jesus said and did when he walked on earth. Yet, first it is one that all the four Gospels were sure to include in their chronicles [(Matthew 21: 1–3), (Mark 11: 1–3), (John 12: 14)]. This is also the one time he appears domineering, instructing his disciples to go and take what is not theirs, without so much as asking. I find it as significant and morally educative as his crucifixion. The passage speaks volumes to me.
It tells me, first, to pick up a random house on the face of the earth and go there, right this minute: open its door, walk in, greet whoever is in the house, fix yourself something to eat, and just sit and eat. Do this perhaps as social experiment.
“Improbable,” you say. The family in all likelihood would chase me out or call the cops upon me. However, this is only because, in my presence, I scream chase-me-out, call-the-cops-on-me, than because this is an improbable feat. This is exactly what Jesus had his disciples do when he asked them to bring the colt. Jesus did not have this done on divine authority —as when he raises Lazarus from the dead — but in his authority in his human capacity. Jesus’s authority over the people lies in love: he loves the people; he loves them more than they ever love themselves; he loves them unconditionally. He loves them so much that whatever is theirs is his. It is in exercise of that authority that he had the colt of another person in another village be brought to him. Whatever Jesus does in his human capacity we also can and should do.
The lesson in the passage is this: we have authority over people when we love them; when we love them more than they love themselves; when we love them unconditionally; when whatever they say and do does nothing to lessen the love we have for them. It is then that we have the authority to take whatever is theirs and they would not have the power to deny us that. However, to love a person is to use that authority only for their wellbeing.
Love is also where our parents’ authority over us lies, not in the fact that they gave birth to us. They lose that authority over us when their love lessens. Leadership is a thing of love. Any leadership not based on love is not leadership but coercion. A true leader is greater than us in love, i.e. they love more. These include Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.
Put this idea to a test. Let me share with you one simple, rather silly experiment I did to test this. I had an elderly teacher in my undergraduate study who despised me for no apparent reason. Whatever I did never impressed her. Hence, I decided to run the test on her. I took up the project of forcing myself to like her, against myself. Everyday, I tried to find something to like about her, and dwelt then upon it in thought. Go ahead laugh as you will, but this is what happened. A few weeks in, I saw the first sign of promise: I had my first genuine smile in her class. Another couple of weeks later, my name was among the few names she began to call often during class. I have also run this experiment upon my family and friends and they are my testimony that this works.
Even God’s authority too lies not so much on the fact that He is our creator as His unconditional love for us. If it lied only on the fact that He is our creator, He would only be a dictator; we would turn against Him; we would also gain power over Him – He would not be invincible anymore – and He would meet with the fate of Frankenstein in the hands of His creatures.
Hence, to love someone unconditionally is to have authority over them. This applies to the world too. You have power over the world when you love it. Jesus is among the few who fully triumphed over the world — thus he says, “I have overcome the world,” (John 16: 33) — because he loved it unconditionally and he did not forsake that love even upon the cross where the world crucified him to death — if he had forsaken his love upon even his crucifixion, the world would have reclaimed the power from him. Hence, he instructs us to love our enemies primarily because, I believe, the only way to have authority over our enemies is to love them; to not love them is to let them have power on us. If the enemies anger or provoke you, know that they are trying to get you to hate them, and in so doing, getting you to be more powerless before them. Holdfast to your love for them, for sooner or later, your unconditional love will overwhelm them, and they will come crawling on their knees, their hands up in surrender, waving a white flag. This is not, of course, to say that we should be only innocent as doves, but also be wise as serpents. Hence, you should love others not so much for their sake as for it is for your own, because, to the extent that you do not love them, you become powerless to them, you let them have authority over you.
In this light, our whole tradition of proposing to a loved one for her hand in marriage seems to me insincere, feigned. Love is authority; getting on your knees, handing out a ring is certainly not the gesture of love. You prove that you love him or her only to yourself. The day you learn without any shadow of doubt you love her is the day you sweep her off her feet into marriage without ever having to propose to her.
It is upon this authority, the love for humanity, that one can walk into the house of any person and do anything in the presence of the family. The people do not have to know this person to know his authority; they sense it in his aura because he carries the aura of power that strangers cannot help submitting to. This is the ultimate state of love, of self-actualization. There is a passage in the Gospel that speaks to this truth. When Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John, upon seeing him for the first time, John says of Jesus, “And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize [d]in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth [e]in the Holy Spirit” (John 1: 33). What John refers to as ‘he that sent me’ is the inner spirit that we all have inside us that senses the aura of our fellow beings.