Like most kids, our children love their candy.
A relatively rare treat in our house, every piece of candy is something to be cherished, savored, and, above all else, hidden from your siblings. I mean, God forbid your older brother finds your hidden stash of Jolly Ranchers!
I think a lot of us view power in a similar way.
I’m talking about social power, like who has authority, who exercises leadership and who commands attention in a given situation. As with my kids and their candy, in our guts, we see power as something to be guarded and kept safe, under lock and key. Over the last several years I’ve been wrestling with what to do with the social power that culture gives me as a man, and my conclusion is this:
Out of reverence for Jesus, I am to release my socially-granted male privilege and power so that others, particularly women, may thrive.
I’m a blogger, and in response to statements like this, I recently got the following comment on my blog:
So now hate for men is also a part of Christianity. This blog is proof of the anti-male nature of feminism. Oppressing people and calling it Jesus-like does not make it Christ-like. This is sad, I hope young men read their Bible and are not influenced to hate themselves cause they are male.”
Ouch, right? But it raises an important question:
Is power (or privilege) something to be held on to and guarded, like a cherry Starburst, or is it something to be joyfully released on behalf of others?
I think it’s the latter, and I have three reasons why.
First, by laying down power, I am following the example of Jesus.
We know from John 10:10 that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, offers abundant life. But have you really thought about what that life entails? Being the least. Dying to self. Raising up others. And, of course, Jesus models it. Take a look at Philippians 2:1-11 through the lens of power. When you do, you’ll see that Jesus is joyfully open-handed with his power and privilege, to the point of death on the cross. So when men like me lay down their socially-granted male privilege on behalf of others, we are following the way of Jesus. And that’s always life abundant.
Second, being free with power means it can’t control you.
Have you ever heard the saying “Heavy is the head that wears the crown”? It’s a paraphrase from Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth, and it captures one of the perils of power; namely, that it can bind us. Having power can mean protecting it and ever plotting to get more. How long after an election does a politician begin to strategize for their re-election? I bet not long. When we freely give up power, it loses its grip on us, and joyful freedom is the reward.
Third, it’s a joy to watch those you have empowered flourish.
When I get something right at work, it’s awesome. But for me it pales in comparison to watching those I have had a small hand in helping succeed. Trust me, laying down power isn’t a loss if someone picks it up and proceeds to flourish. As a community, we need Jesus to revolutionize our theology of and experience of social power. To be precise, we need to reimagine what it means to lay down, or share power.
Most of us, men in particular, see losing power as a negative thing, but what if the exact opposite is true?
What if instead it’s life-giving? Freeing? Even joyful? I’m convinced it can be. I’m convinced it will be. I’m convinced it is already. Now, to figure out how to help my kids share their Twix bars…