Curriculum: Power and the Christian

"Misuse of power" is the common theme in clergy sexual abuse. While congregations teach the principle of servanthood well, do they also teach their congregants the principle of wise use of power? Now we have a study that looks at scriptural examples of individuals in power and how power is used to harm and to help in service to God. Below is an excerpt.

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.' " Matthew 9:33-35 (NIV)

Power. We might as well admit it, we want it. Even the Twelve who walked physically alongside Jesus and heard his instruction face-to-face, hung back to argue about who would be the greatest, but then "kept quiet" when Jesus questioned them.

In this study series, we will look carefully at the concept of power, what it means to be a person with appointed authority as well as one with innate authority, and how we are to handle authority responsibly and in a way that pleases God. We'll also look at biblical examples of how to confront abuses of power and suggest that all of what we learn from scripture has practical application for us today. Throughout, we will examine why it is that, still, we too often "keep quiet" about the dynamics of power.

Our underlying text for this study is Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (NIV). Whether we hold the highest office in the company or the land or we hold no job at all, this verse is our commonality, our great equalizer. We are fallen and broken people, we all make mistakes and poor choices. A position of authority does not make us immune from human fallibility; some would argue it gives it more opportunity to flourish. How then do we handle the power we have with humility and grace, mindful too that Jesus warned "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11, NIV)?

No problem, you say, because you don't have any power to wield? That's not true. Whether you are a boss, supervisor, teacher, coach, pastor, deacon, PTA president, Bible study leader -- the dynamics of power exist. While our Christian education has steeped us in the value of serving others, we have not been taught well how to live as persons in positions of power and how that informs service. How are we to wield power in appropriate, gospel-directed ways?