Compassionate Authority: Jesus Turns ‘Big Brother’ on Its Head

One of the greatest fears of Americans today seems to be the increasing attention the government is supposedly paying to everything we’re doing on our computers, phones, etc., the increasing surveillance. It even got a lengthy treatment on HBO’s popular Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which included an interview with the exiled Edward Snowden, a whistleblower on the topic.

It’s reminiscent of the world set up in the book 1984 by George Orwell. The Wikipedia description:

The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (or Ingsoc in the government’s invented language, Newspeak) under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite, that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrimes.”

The tyranny is epitomized by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality but who may not even exist. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.” The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

Perhaps Orwell’s world is a big exaggerated, but a lot of people are afraid that this would actually happen (read this opinion column on CNN to see what some people think). The idea is a popular one in society. We enjoy reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor where we get to peek in on real people living out their lives. We fear the government having the same ability to look into our life. I could write about that contradiction, but I’ve got something more important.

Jesus has the same kind of “Big Brother” power in our lives, but unlike “Big Brother,” He exerts His authority with a grace and love unlike any other leader in history.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives what is known in Christian circles as the “Great Commission,” the mission for all believers to live out. It goes like this:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The first thing Jesus tells the disciples is that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to Him. This is backed up by the idea presented by Paul in Philippians 2:8-11.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus has all power and all authority. I’m of the camp that believes that Jesus is God, therefore He is indwelled with all the power and authority that God has. He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants. God the Father and God the Son serve different purposes and different roles, but have similar power and authority. So Jesus rules and reigns, right?

But this is where it gets awesome: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In 1984, Big Brother is this mysterious leader who comes up on screens and promises that he is taking care of and loving his people. But, as the Wikipedia description says, he may not even really exist. In the book, there’s no definitive answer as to whether or not he’s a real person. And there’s no questioning whether or not he’s real, or you get “re-educated.” He’s not “with” his people.

Jesus tells His disciples that He is with them always, to the end of time. He is with us. Emmanuel, another name for Jesus, means “God with us.” If you’re “with” someone, you’re on their side, you genuinely care for them, you genuinely love them, you’re genuinely interested in their best.

That’s the kind of authority we need in our lives, an authority that genuinely cares for us enough to be with us and to love us, to be on our side, to be for us. When Winston Smith rebelled against Big Brother in his thoughts, there was no forgiveness because there was no mercy. When we rebel against God in our thoughts and in our actions, He offers a forgiveness and a love that is greater than our sins and our shortcomings.

So when we sin, we don’t have to fear the authority Jesus has. He has the authority to forgive sins. So we should rejoice in His authority and the fact that He uses it to love us.