Power. Something the devil offered Jesus, and he turned down. At least it was a certain sort of controlling power that, as with the second temptation of Jesus, wasn’t remotely related to the sort of power he had been given as God’s Son. As Maggi Dawn explains in the reading from Matthew 4 she selected for today in her book ‘Giving It Up’, Jesus’ was a power that was harnessed to serve others, to heal, and to bring justice, not to bully people into submission.
Power. It’s something that we rightly fear when exercised by others over us, especially when it results in injustice, suffering, and abuse. But I wonder if we’re becoming over sensitised to it? More suspicious of power than we need be, or should be, especially in the context of Christian leadership.
During some conversations that I’ve had this week, all revolving around the same set of circumstances, people have talked a lot about ‘top down’ management as a bad thing, a form of power to be feared. Why, I find myself wondering, is this worse than a ‘bottom up’ approach, or one that takes more account of consultation with a broad spectrum of voices and opinions?
For me, this gives rise to a series of questions to which I don’t have answers, and to which I am sure the answers vary from case to case:
- Is our increasing concern and fixation with how people exercise ‘power’ (for which you can read ‘those in authority’) actually motivated by a desire to have our voice heard, our needs met, our ideas and priorities to be the ones that are taken up and used by those with power?
- If this is the case, does it fly in the face of a humility that knows we might not be best equipped to see the big picture, and the need to employ some level of trust as servants of God, in the wisdom and discernment of those whose job it is to lead us in his name?
- Is there also a danger that if we’re constantly doubting the integrity of our leaders, we might be limiting their prophetic power in situations that are crying out for change?
- In the very act of challenging people’s power, are we in a paradoxical situation of actually exerting too much power ourselves, when it’s not ours to exert?
I know that when I think of, or become aware of something that I don’t feel is an appropriate decision or use of power, I’m often among the first to question it; and I probably shouldn’t give that up completely for Lent, or at any other time, because I’ve done that not so long ago, with distressing results. But perhaps I should be a little more aware of how God might be perceiving my words and actions, and the power that they are trying to exert over others – whether I relate up, or down, to them!
Graham has I suspect, given the music he’s been looking at, come up with some rather different thoughts, so I do encourage you to go and look at them too.