20–26 May 2018.
One of the most common temptations we face is the temptation to grab hold of power. Sometimes we want power because our pride pushes us to want to stand above other people and make ourselves feel greater than them. We think having power over others makes us somehow better. Sometimes we seek power because we want to control others. We feel weak and vulnerable, and so we think that if we have power we can hurt other people before they hurt us. So as a result of pride and insecurity, we see men and women all around the world fighting everyday for power. Sadly, we see this even in our churches.
I regularly hear so many horror stories from friends and former students about things that are happening in their churches. I think many of us have heard these types of stories before: about pastors being overbearing, elders and deacons and pastors shouting and screaming at each other, the many painful clashes for power, and the many gentle Christians who get hurt in these wars and even leave the church because of them. Of course all people are sinners, and all people face the temptations of power; it’s just saddening to see that many Christians are no different.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul’s expectation is that people in the church should be different. The gentleness and humbleness of Jesus is supposed to be our example. That’s why in 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives us a list of the characteristics that church leaders should have – and those characteristics are different from the values we find in the outside world. Paul stresses that Christian leaders must be sensible, respectable, welcoming and hospitable, but also they must not be quarrelsome, not be lovers of money and power, and most importantly they must live a life of gentleness.
The German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer stressed that in the church, power only comes through service. Those who don’t serve, have no right to hold power. But this is something that Jesus himself taught us. In his own life, Jesus humbled himself, washed his disciples’ feet, and served them. In that way Jesus showed us what true power and true church leadership really is.
The church is not a place for politics and power games. I hope the only competitions and struggles we see in the church are the struggles to see who can love the most, who can serve the most, and who can lead a life most characterized by gentleness, humbleness, and love.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis