We see abuse of power everywhere. In the recent news, there have been religious authority figures using their power to commit and cover up sexual and spiritual abuse, political figures using their power to spy on their own citizens, and chances are most of us have felt abused by bosses who use their power to manipulate their subordinates.
Phil Monroe, from Biblical Seminary, recently wrote about spiritual abuse in the church as well as why spiritual leaders abuse power, but his words are relevant to abuses of power all over the world, both within the church and outside. While we may be upset at leaders abusing their power to manipulate large groups of people, their behavior is very similar to the more common perpetrators of small scale power abuse: every single one of us.
We have all used power to manipulate those around us, whether it is our children or friends, we have all abused the trust instilled within us to coerce someone to do something not necessarily for their own well-being. I’ve seen parents manipulate their children for their own selfish means, and I personally have convinced friends to do things against their own well-being in order to achieve what I desired. We all sin, and we all have abused the bonds we’ve built at some point or another, but why do we do this and how can the scripture help enlighten us on our own selfish actions?
Most abuses of power come out of efficiency. Just as using a gun to silence someone is more efficient than using words to come to an agreement, it is often easier to achieve our own plans or desires through manipulation than through honest means. It doesn’t mean either is the right thing to do.
Often, we see others abuse power out of fear, especially fear of losing control. It could be argued that this is one of the biggest forces driving political abuse of power. Leaders are constantly in fear of losing power, just as we might be pushed to manipulation over fear of losing our job, home, or stability.
Sometimes, we abuse power to avoid doing negative actions we consider to be more serious by forcing others to do those actions instead. We do this to avoid placing the blame on ourselves, but it is only delusion that allows us to pretend we are not to blame for things we make others do. It also violates the version of love we have learned from God. He doesn’t force us to do anything, but offers us love and lets us accept it and live in his light.
What can we do to avoid abusing those around us? Monroe offers some options, but it is always best for always try to live in the spirit of the lord. Giving up control of the future is painful and frightening for many, but we should honor the trust and power others have given us more than certainty that we may get the results we personally desire.