I never tire of telling the story of the Centurion chronicled in Matthew Chapter 8. It remains one of the highlights of the Police Dynamics program because it so clearly illustrates the principle of a law enforcement or government official operating “under authority.”
This video from the Police Dynamics archives was actually filmed in the very synagogue that was built by the Centurion in the village of Capernaum, Israel! I had to speak in hushed tones because there were a number of tour groups there at the same time. Apparently yellow ballcaps were in fashion that day!
About 2000 years ago, the land of Palestine was under the rule of the Roman Empire, a very powerful and at times corrupt governing authority. Within a town or village, the Roman government would appoint a representative. He was known as the Centurion. The Centurion was an army commander and served as the representative of Roman governmental authority and power. He functioned much like a Police Chief, Fire Chief, Public Safety Director, Mayor, and Magistrate all rolled into one! Although the Romans did not appreciate separation of powers quite like we do, he was clearly responsible for maintaining the law, order, health, safety, and morals of that village.
In the village of Capernaum near the Sea of Gallilee, there was Centurion who had a great trust-based relationship with the community he served. He had even built a synagogue for the Jews who lived there. However, he had a servant who was ill and on the verge of death. Hearing that Jesus was in town, the Centurion sent word to Him asking Him to heal the servant. Jesus was more than happy to help and offered to go to the Centurion’s home. However, the Centurion said something quite profound at that point.
He said, “Do not come to my house. I am not even worthy to have You come under my roof. Secondly, I too am a man under authority. And I have soldiers who work under me. If I tell this one to come, he comes. If I tell that one to go, he goes. If I tell another to do something, he goes and does it. You do not have to come to my house. All You have to do is speak the word and it will be done.”
What was he doing? He was recognizing the authority of Jesus. Essentially he was saying, “If You are who You represent yourself to be (our definition of Integrity) — the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Great Physician, the Creator of the Universe — then why do You need to go anywhere? The power of the universe is at your command.”
Jesus marveled at the faith of the Centurion. Saying, “In all of Israel I have not seen this kind of faith! Here is a Roman Centurion, a pagan! And he has more faith than those of you who call yourself the children of Abraham, the very man of faith!” (That’s a paraphrase, but it is the essence of what He was saying…)
Interestingly, the Centurion did NOT say, “I am a man OF authority!” Even though he was. Because he understood this principle. He recognized that the only time he had a right to tell anyone else what to do was when he himself was lined up under HIS authorities.
And do you know that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to work – even in our own organizations? I mean, if the layers of authority are all lined up correctly, the one IN authority should simply have to speak and it should flow down the chain of command to the appropriate level and get done! However, it doesn’t often work that way, does it? And one of the reasons is because we have Renegades at so many levels in the chain that they are breaking the natural flow of authority. They are relying on ego power rather than legitimate Positional Authority.
Those of you in law enforcement and public safety are the modern day centurions. You spend a good bit of your day telling others what they should do: “Go, Come, Stop, Put Your Hands Behind Your Back, Watch Your Head…!”
How dare we even attempt to exercise our authority by telling others what to do if we ourselves are not lined up under OUR authorities!