1 Corinthians 2:1–5, Ephesians 3:14–19 (read online ⧉)
Power makes a difference. We all acknowledge that. Whether it is political power, military power, law enforcement power, boss power, parental power, and even spouse power. Power is a part of every relationship. Even in relationships of equality, power will always be there.
Often people will use the power of others to throw their weight around. This would be the concept of name-dropping, whether it’s saying you “know” a person, or you “work” for a person, both mean that you are “dropping” hints at the power you are associated with.
It is well within the norms of human behavior to use power to convince people to listen and believe. While we suppose the gentle art of persuasion isn’t about power, it actually is. Persuasion is built around people giving someone the power to change their minds. Yes, this is an oversimplification. It is far more complicated than that, yet, the underlying truth that power is involved even there remains.
When Paul reminds the Corinthians of how he convinced them of the truth of the Gospel, he notes that he didn’t use rhetorical flourishes, great wit, or proof of his vast knowledge and/or intellect. He convinced them by his life. Often (but historically inaccurate), St. Francis is attributed with the following, “preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” While it is a great pithy statement, it’s a horrible practice. Yet, as Paul demonstrates, there is truth in it. Paul didn’t stop preaching and speaking the Gospel or not live it out, he was just humble. He was a deliberate partner in the work of the Holy Spirit, and did what Paul was to do, and left it to the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit would do.
Paul often comes across as arrogant and demanding. However, perhaps we ought to see it as an earthly father who seeks the best for his children, even if they don’t like it. Paul’s posture of humility is portrayed to the Ephesians as an almost begging position for his spiritual children in Ephesus (and all the places he went). He wanted them to be filled with the power of God, not the power of humankind. Do you see what he’s really praying for? The power that he’s praying for on their behalf is the power to fully comprehend how much God loves them, then they would be filled completely with and for God.
1) How often have you experienced people using earthly power in the guise (or disguise) of Holy power?
2) Often people will use false humility to convince or control. How would you tell the difference between false and true humility?
3) Why is learning and recognizing the use of power critical to the future of the church?