Stuart Berger was a health columnist for The New York Post for a number of years. He was also the author of best-selling diet and health books that promised increased longevity to those who would follow his regimen. He wrote such books as Forever Young: 20 Years Younger in 20 Weeks
and Dr. Berger's Immune Power Diet
. People who read his column in the newspaper, and those who read his books were surprised to hear in 1994 that Dr. Berger died, at the age of 40. They were especially surprised to read that he weighed 365 pounds at the time of his death. Needless to say, when those who were following Berger's regimen heard the news of his death and his obesity, Berger's credibility died with him.
Credibility is an issue in all religions. All religions speak of a source of authority. How can we know that what is being said is true? How can we know that this church or this preacher is interpreting Scripture as it should be interpreted? A bigger question is: How can we know the Bible is true? What reason does a believer have to make a claim? The source of every religion needs credibility, and if it is to catch hold and grow, persons with credible witnesses are needed.
We have two generations today who have very little knowledge of the Bible. Added to this young adult and middle adult group are youth who are questioning and older adults who were turned off or disillusioned by religion years ago. And, there are stories of pastors, churches, and other religious groups who have dropped the ball morally and in other ways. There are a lot of folks who are struggling with credibility issues relative to religion.
The same was true in Jesus' day, and following His death and resurrection. Many would not listen to the resurrection news because they couldn't accept the fact that a Messiah could die -- and especially a scornful death on a cross. It was difficult for people who had been taught another thing all of their life to believe that the Messiah would die. In their minds, the Messiah would never die. Just so today, there are people who refuse to hear the good news of God's love because they have problems with some other religious issues or life situations. Some close their minds to God's love because it doesn't make sense or they don't believe they are worthy to be loved.
More than other gospel writers, John takes the issue of credibility seriously. He deals with God's coming into the world, not in a narrative sense as do Matthew and Luke, but in a theological sense. He deals with authority and respect; two issues that have to be settled in one's mind if religion is to be meaningful.
Power is rooted in respect. Power is a word that speaks of being inspired, of being energized. If someone gives you power, you have resources beyond your own. On the other hand, if you don't respect someone, they don't have power over you.
Authority is different than respect. A person can have authority over you without there being any respect. Authority doesn't inspire or energize, unless the energy comes from fear. Laws, rules, and organizational charts define authority. Authority is a given, whereas respect is a power that is earned. A parent may have authority over a child, but not have the child's respect. A boss may have authority over a worker, but not his or her respect. The goal that every parent, every boss, every politician, every leader should have is to have authority and respect. Authority without respect robs energy; authority with respect energizes.