For several days this week, I was in Dallas. Mid-afternoon on Monday, I was sitting in a Panera Bread (kind of a bakery, sandwich-soup, coffee place) on LBJ with my computer on, checking e-mail messages. (Free wireless Internet access!). This is a time I welcomed as some of my most productive work is away from the office. Some of my best work has taken place while sitting in a McDonald’s (or Starbucks) with my papers or books spread out on the table and enjoying a second cup of coffee.
Dallas is such an interesting place to me. I find large cities to be interesting places in general but perhaps Dallas is especially interesting as I grew up there. One of the characteristics of a city that I often notice are the people who in some way display "power."
It is interesting to watch people when someone "powerful" walks into their space (that is, someone who they perceive to have power that could give them an advantage). It may just be that they perceive that other person to have more power than themselves). People will at times go to great lengths to defer to the person of power. ("He used to play for the Cowboys, you know.")
Power can often corrupt. Maybe I should say, the misuse of power can corrupt.
- The person with a giant SUV is on the expressway, riding the bumper of a small car in front of them.
- The person who speaks sharply to another on the telephone bullying and cajoling that person.
- The man who is a controller, using his power in situations to manipulate others into doing whatever he wishes with no regard for how demeaning he is to those around him.
- The supervisor who is physically intimidating, who speaks loudly, peppering his/conversation with four-letter words.
- The attractive woman who uses her sexuality as a means of power over men. The charming man who uses his charm to have his way with women. (I know you’ve seen this, college students).
Unfortunately, far too often church people try to deal with one another through power. For many years, I’ve seen some Christians (in a variety of locations and settings) do the following:
- I’ve seen people threaten ("There is a bunch of people who are going to leave").
- I’ve seen people try to hold a group of leaders hostage ("We are not giving one dime until you….").
- I’ve seen people try to bully. They turn red in the face, huff and puff, and make demands.
Meanwhile, all of us need to remember that Jesus spoke of another way. He spoke of serving. He could have used his power. After all, he had more than we could ever dream of having. Yet he chose to serve (Mark 10:45). He chose to approach people not threats but with a towel (John 13:1-20). He calls us not to bully but to wash one another’s feet. Yet, we are not so sure about this. Far too many of us place more confidence in the flesh (and our human power) than in the ways of Jesus.