July 4, 2008

Power: Wield or Wear?

I have a friend, Ryan, who recently finished a series on influence on his blog, Tilling the Soil. It made me think a lot about influence, it made me think a lot about my previous business career and some of the discussions I had with friends and colleagues. It made me think of something that is related to influence, yet somewhat different.


The dictionary defines power as possession of control, authority or influence over others. So there it is, influence and power are related, but somehow power sounds more like a dirty little word than influence does. Power seems to go beyond influence with that talk of control or authority. Influence seems to be more of a two way street; power, like electricity, seems to flow in one direction.
Power isn't always bad; Acts 1:8 talks about receiving power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, so if you get it from God when the best thing in your life happens to you, it cannot be bad, at least not all the time. I did a concordance search and the word power came up 1134 times in the NET version of the bible, so it is being talked about a lot in my favorite book(s).
Then I thought, power like money is not evil, but the love of it is. I mean, you could switch power for money in 1 Timothy 6:10 and most people would not miss a beat. Try it.
So that got me thinking about what I had often witnessed in a 30 year business career, some of it at a high enough level to see the exercise of power, at least in corporate form. What I had learned was this, you can wield or wear power. In the business world I had seen both happen. In the business world I had done both myself.
When you think of wielding power, think of a club, the act of bludgeoning something. You use your position to exert the power that resides in it to make people do what you want, whether it is right or wrong. In biblical terms think of guys like Saul or Herod. Think of how they wielded their power. Think of the messes they made with it by not listening to God but their own heart, their inner demons.
When you think of wearing power, think of a cloak or mantle draped over the shoulders. It fits, the power flows naturally from and around the body, people respond to the inherent authority they instinctively feel. They are either glad to follow or at least acknowledge the power as a force to be reckoned with. In biblical terms, the ultimate power wearer was Jesus. Power flowed from Him, it was part of His essence, His being (Think of the woman touching His cloak in Mark 5). Not everyone followed Him as a result of His power, but everyone did have to deal with His power one way or another.
Wielding power is easy if you have the position-a king like Saul and Herod could make things happen because of their position. Wearing power is easy if you have the character-that's why a king like Jesus made it seem like second nature. Of the two, wearing power is harder because it requires more inner calm and strength, so you usually see people wielding it, which can occur even in times of huge inner turmoil or weakness. Jesus wore it, and if anyone had the right to wield power it was Jesus. Who can argue with God if He decides to start smiting, whatever His reason?
As I walk my narrow road, I need to look for opportunities to wear whatever form of power has come upon me for that particular season. I need to leave the desire to wield power in my past. I only honor God in the wearing. I have the model to follow in Jesus, I will pray for the wisdom and courage necessary to accompany whatever power level I am charged with.

In your corner of the world, do you wield or wear?


ryan said...

Great post. Thanks for the link.
I know that I was once a wielder. I'm having some struggles transitioning out of that place, but it's a good learning experience.
I think that the "Wearing" really goes back to relationships.
Just my two cents.

Andy C said...

I don't think anyone has an easy time transitioning out of wielding to wearing, but I think everyone needs to try.