“But I am among you as the one who serves.” -Our Lord Jesus, as recorded in Luke 22:27
Power-brokers, power-mongers, and power-players run our world. To some degree or another, most of us have come to accept that power-play is just part of living life in a fallen and corrupted world. We anticipate finding power-brokers in politics, business, and educational systems. Many of our industry leaders and elected officials are characterized by avarice, corruption, and the love of power. We know that fallen people crave the esteem and privilege that position and prestige afford them. And, we also know that too many are willing to sell their voice, their bodies or even their souls to experience just a few moments of the exhilarating rush that accompanies the realization that they are the ones to which everyone else is beholden. We realize that for fallen humanity power is like an aphrodisiac that climaxes in the control of circumstances and other people, an elixir that creates the irresistible illusions of preeminence and self-autonomy.
As Christians, we may reluctantly come to terms with the reality that the leadership structures of this fallen and fleeting world are overrun with the corruption of power hungry people. But may we never develop an indifference or come to terms with the problem of power-play in the church – which is to be both a pillar and a defense of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16). We must learn to recognize the satanic strategies of power-play, resist the urges to succumb to its temptations, and then respond Biblically to the power-brokers in our churches.
Lest we naively think that power-play in the church is not a problem, we should consider the record of the New Testament. Jesus dealt with it in nearly every interaction that he had with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, as well as, in his interaction with Herod and Pilate. Paul dealt with power-players, power-mongers, and power-brokers regularly– both in his interaction with the unsaved and in the church (e.g., Acts 13:45, 14:19, 22-25, 24:27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 2 Corinthians 11: 20-21; Galatians 1:6-10, 2:4-15; 6:11-13). Peter was a pawn in Herod’s power-play (Acts 12:1-3), almost succumbed to the pressure put on him by the power-brokers in Galatia (Galatians 2:11-14), and yet, he delivers one of the most stinging condemnations of power-mongering in the New Testament (2 Peter 2). John gave instructions to a pastor under his direction on dealing with a power-broker that had joined the church, apparently, one that had some level of authority in the early church (3 John 9-10). Time and space do not allow for us to survey, even briefly, the record of power politics in the established church over the last 1,900 years – it is far too vast. It will suffice to say that there would never have been a Reformation had there not first been a corruption of ecclesiastical power.
However, the Lord calls His church to humble-minded servant leadership. We are not to seek to be served or to seek preeminence. But, instead, the Lord has called us and equipped us to serve others and to pour out our lives for the good of others. For on the night that our Lord was betrayed, he said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27 ESV)
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