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Yes, Let's Talk About Power

Bicep
On December 16, 2013

This post originally appeared on November 15, 2013 on the blog of House2House Magazine: house2housemagazine.com/2013/11/15/yes-lets-talk-about-power-by-christa-mckirland.

Some Thoughts on Andy Crouch’s article in Christianity Today.

I was directed to Andy Crouch’s article by a friend and ended up writing down my thoughts after reading through it a few times. I don’t know if his book will address some of my questions when it comes out later this month, but regardless, these were the thoughts on my heart when I read this. If you have not read his article, it can be found HERE.

I appreciate Crouch’s desire to call a spade a spade—power is power, even if we dress it down and try to un-formalize it. However, Crouch’s article assumes that power exists between brothers and sisters in Christ and, as an inevitable reality, must be stewarded well by those who have it. The problem is 1) he does not define what power is, and 2) doesn’t make distinctions between power based on position or power rooted in the Spirit among siblings in Christ.

If Crouch means that power is influence, then I might agree. However, how this influence is acquired is still where I would disagree with him. I think spiritual influence is earned based on one’s character and gifting. Otherwise this influence is conferred because of position and is listened to because someone wears a mic or has a title. Not that the person in that position cannot have solid character, but the influence is based far more on visibility and elevation than consistency.

I also agree that there are power differentials everywhere we turn in our society. Where I disagree is that these should still characterize our relationships with our family in Christ. I don’t ever want someone to listen or acquiesce to something I say just because I can say it well or loudly.

In fact, I think the lack of power differentials within the Body of Christ is actually what made Her break into human history with such gusto. That people were sitting around the same table who were Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free, men and women was shocking to those in the body and to outside observers. Did this negate that power differentials existed between these people? Not in the culture at large, but I believe they were negated in the family of Christ. How else could Paul urge Philemon to welcome back his runaway slave Onesimus as a brother? Or to exhort husbands to love their wives as their own bodies? Or to entreat Jewish Christians to fully accept their Gentile brothers and sisters? We are not known by our power, but are all equally filled with the power of the Spirit and it is in submission to Him that we serve one another.

The quick objection is typically in an appeal to Jesus. However, while Jesus absolutely had power, this is very different from the power that I have because I am not God. I think what he is modeling, especially in his example of washing the disciples’ feet, is that he had all the power of the universe and then turned and served us. How much more then, we, who do not have this power, are compelled to serve one another.

Because influence is earned through gifting and maturity, each of us has access to influence as we draw near to Jesus individually and corporately. I think that is the power that is meant to characterize the body, power that ultimately comes from the Spirit of God, which we all share and all test. Even the gifts of the Spirit are originated from him and sustained by him. They are distributed according to his will and do not give us power over one another—that is a job reserved for God alone.

So all this to say, I do not think that power is a dirty word, but it’s a word that has a necessarily different texture in the family of Christ. So different, in fact, that I wouldn’t use the word power at all since I think it confuses more than it clarifies.

I do think Crouch’s exhortation to give power away has great application in the corporate world in which there are power differentials, but this application ends when talking about how sisters and brothers in Christ should relate to one another. Thus, if our churches look like corporations, how can brothers and sisters relate to one another as God intended?

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