II. KNOWING AUTHORITY
To know authority here means to touch authority. Therefore, the term "knowing" is used in a very particular sense. From my experience I would like to testify to the brothers and sisters from the deepest part of my inner being that I sincerely believe in this matter. If a child of God truly wants to follow the Lord, sooner or later he will have to confront the matter of authority in his own experience. There is such a thing called authority that all must confront. Ordinarily, when we speak of knowing authority, it means to have a little knowledge about authority, but this is not what I am speaking of here. The knowledge of authority that I am speaking of here refers to a person’s touching of the very thing called authority. God will eventually cause one who truly administrates and builds the church to confront authority. He will discover the fact that whenever he sins against authority or seeks to destroy it, it is much the same as if he had lost his own life. When he damages authority or has conflict with authority, he will not only find it hard to go on in his service, but he will have difficulties in his Christian life.
Authority is something that is very difficult to explain. For the time being, let me first explain what it means to touch authority. For instance, some time ago a serious case of smuggling was reported in the newspaper. When the smuggler was smuggling, he too had a sense of authority. He knew he was smuggling, and he knew this was against the authority. However, although he had this sense, he had not yet touched authority. Not until the day when his smuggling was discovered and the government ordered his arrest was he confronted with such a thing as authority. He hid himself here and there, and he was afraid of the policemen. Actually, the policemen had nothing to do with him. However, they represented authority. Since the smuggler had violated authority, it was impossible for him to live a normal life.
Take another example. A son who behaves properly before his parents may not sense the authority of the parents, but when he is in trouble with them, he immediately touches authority. Do not say that only ten-year-old children will find it difficult to go on when they are in trouble with their parents. Even a fifty-year-old adult will feel something wrong with himself as a person when he is in trouble with his parents, because the parents are still his authority. In his parents he confronts authority.
I do not know if the brothers and sisters can understand this matter when I explain it this way. Please remember that if you want to truly go on in the way of following the Lord and serving Him, sooner or later the Lord will cause you to confront authority. You can be "naughty" in many other things, but if you touch authority, you will know yourself that there will be no way for you to go on in life if you are "naughty" in this matter. Neither will you be able to live a proper life before God. Perhaps you can still serve a little, but you will find that the feeling is not quite pleasant. Perhaps you can still read the Bible, pray, and even preach, but only you will know what feeling you have. It is like the feeling of being killed. That fugitive smuggler also ate, dressed, slept, and even took a bath, but only he knew how unbearable that kind of life was. He had committed many evil things before, yet he never felt so bad as he did now. This time he felt truly bad, because he had touched authority.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)