I often hear Christians challenge the “need” for “organized religion” in their life. Many believe the Christian journey is about a singular relationship with Jesus Christ. Many believe that so long as they believe in the hear that Jesus is Lord, there is no “need” to be part of a Church community. In fact this is such a large demographic of Christians, that researchers have coined them “nones” because they belong to no denomination or Church. You could say they are freelance Christians, going about their life believing and living their Christian faith with no influence, or more importantly, no authority from any Church.
Then I come to today’s Gospel lesson (you can read the entire passage below) which begins, “Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.” Then there is also this: “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10.19) We cannot forget this one, “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20.22.23)
In these examples of authority, Jesus (who no Christian denies He has authority) did not grant authority to crowds of unknown believers, but to certain disciples. We can see in Acts how the people came to the Apostles to seek blessing from God through them, since they had such authority. Those ancient believers were not freelance Christians, but members of the Church. They gathered as the Church, led by the Apostles who had been given authority by God.
The important thing to remember about authority, is that when it is genuine, it is complete. If Christ had given (which all Christians believe He did) authority to the Apostles, then the Apostles had the authority to include others under that authority. We call this Apostolic Succession, but I will not get into that detail in this post. However, it is clear from the ancient history and tradition of the Church that the Christians we read about in the Book of Acts, all believed the Apostles governed with the authority of God.
What does that mean for us today? We should forget about being freelance Christians, and return to the Church, which has been given authority by God to heal us, to forgive us, and to guide us into the kingdom. The Orthodox Christian Bishops of today have been granted, through Apostolic Succession (see Acts 1.26) the same authority as the Holy Apostles. The Bishops have granted authority to the priests not to lord it over you (see Matthew 20.25) but for healing and salvation. Call your local Orthodox Christian priest and set an appointment. You won’t regret it. He has the authority to heal what ails you.
At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.” Matthew 10.1, 5-8