The Power of Power

Back in the 1980’s my family lived in Columbia, SC, where I served on the ministry staff of Shandon Baptist Church. Our family lived next to a couple in their mid-70’s. His name was Charlie. One spring day while Charlie was mowing his grass, a rake-like attachment on the front of his lawnmower caught my attention. Out of curiosity I walked over and asked him about the attachment. He explained that it was a device designed to dethatch his centipede lawn.

At that moment Charlie said those magic words any neighbor likes to hear: “Would you like to borrow it sometime?” Quickly I said yes and arranged for a time to borrow it. When the time came for me to use his mower and attachment, excitedly I pushed his mower into my yard, filled it with gas, and cranked it. When I started to push the mower, it was all I could do to get it to budge. Charlie in his mid-70’s had pushed it with ease, and here I was in my upper-30’s yet I could hardly get it to move an inch. I strained and strained, all the while hoping none of my neighbors, especially Charlie, were watching me. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get the mower to push with ease. And then I noticed a lever that I had never seen on a mower before. Out of curiosity—and desperation—I pulled back on the lever. Immediately the mower lurched forward. The mystery was solved. My problem wasn’t a lack of strength. It was a lack of brains. I had been trying to push a self-propelled mower.

Power, the ability to produce results and/or to affect change, is a great thing…when used. Especially on self-propelled lawnmowers. Call it the power of power.

From where does power come?

  1. The Power of Position—that ability to affect change and produce results because of one’s position in a chain of command coupled with the authority which comes with it. Call it the power of “because I said so.” While in and of itself this kind of power is not bad, it is, however, the kind of power that can be so easily abused—the kind of which is said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A person with this kind of power, if not careful, can leave a trail of human carcasses in his/her wake.

  2. The Power of Persuasion—that ability to produce results and affect change, not because others are made to do so, but because something in another person influences them to want to do so. The power of persuasion grows in the soil of inspiration fertilized by vision, purpose, and mission, and in confidence, courage, and backbone, and in character, credibility, accomplishment, and experience. But most of all, the power of persuasion grows in soil fertilized by compassion and sacrificial love.

Each of us has spheres in which we have opportunity to utilize our powers of position and persuasion. Those spheres include family, work, church, and community. Power can be used to build up or tear down, to dominate and manipulate, or to encourage and support. Adolph Hitler and Dwight Eisenhower both had power, but each used his to much different ends.

There is no better role model for balanced, proper, and effective use of the powers of position and persuasion than Jesus Christ. No scripture better describes that balance than Philippians 2:5-8, which says of Him, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (NASB) As Lord and Creator of the universe, Jesus has the power of position. As Savior He has the power of persuasion. He uses both; He abuses neither.

Use the power of your powers, but don’t abuse the power of your powers.

Jerry Long

Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be reached at gotigers73@att.net.