Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
… Power without love is reckless and abusive and … love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” – Jesus in Mark 10:42b-43a
Christians may find themselves comfortable talking about God’s power or about other people’s misuse of power, but talking about our own power can be hard. Even unseemly.
Yet we do have capacity to make things happen and to keep them from happening. This is power. We have imperatives that come out of who we are in Christ. Fulfilling the purpose of our lives and the church takes power, which can show up in many forms. God’s power works in and through us.
Both wanting power and not wanting power can lead to the abuse of power. We have God-given purpose and capacity to achieve purpose, so let us steward power well.
” …Everyone has power, but we do not all have it to the same degree. Power as influence is always relative to our resources. One of the most important self-examinations we can do is to name our sources of power, for we are most at risk of ethical misconduct when we minimize or ignore our power.” *
Everyone has power.
It is easy to be blind to our everyday power. However, we only need to think about the things parents and teachers have thoughtlessly said to children that got imbedded in their self-image (for good or bad) to realize that power is everywhere.
We all have positions or roles: supervisor, mother, son, co-worker, corps officer, board member, student, father, CEO, janitor, husband, etc. Our positions or roles give us a sphere of influence.
We all have capacity that emerges from our specific gifts, skills, knowledge and experience. Some of our capacity is the result of making the most of opportunities and privilege, but we all have things that we are capable of doing that put us in a place to influence situations.
We all have status that affects the kind of influence we can have in different situations. Our skin color, accent, ethnicity, gender, age and so on affect how people treat us and can impact the amount of influence we can have in one context versus another.
We all are the subject of others’ impressions. The beliefs of other people about what we are like can be a source of power or disempowerment. While one can work to manage other people’s impressions, what people think about us is really up to them. Actual experience or mere transference may make people hostile, receptive or even dependent on our influence.
We all are saying something about God with the way we live. This gives a special weight to our influence.**
How are you using your power?
For more conversation, use Embrace at www.tsamtk.org.
*Gula, Richard quoted in Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team and the World (2015). Zondervan: Grand Rapids, p. 242.
**Concepts adapted from Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Leader.
Captain Maureen Diffley is the Program Specialist for Women’s Ministries at the Territorial Headquarters of The Salvation Army in Atlanta, Georgia.