Power and Responsibility

by Judi Chow

pow·er The ability or official capacity to perform or act effectively, to exercise control; authority.

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty The state of being responsible, accountable, or answerable, as for a trust, debt, or obligation.

After seeing the “Spider-Man 2” movie, I can’t help but contemplate on its famous line- “With great power comes great responsibility.” In Peter Parker’s case, great power was stuck into him by a spider, he didn’t hackle or tackle for it yet he learned to use it for the good of mankind. Then like any one of us, our superhero has his own struggles with money and relationships. What was portrayed in this movie concerning power and responsibility occurs in churches and on mission fields. What I’ve gleaned from this movie is:

Power is given; if you don’t use it, you can lose it!
Responsibility is a choice, you can choose to assume it or be consumed by it.

I’ve seen leaders shy away from power and decision making, therefore bearing no responsibility. No one would want to follow such a leader! I’ve also seen people hungry for power, want to be in charge, and call the shots without being questioned. That’s how cults come into being! To be fair, the motive behind either one can be complex and mixed. What is the proper perspective to balance the two?

A good place to start is with this word: identity– how you see yourself in relation to others. Do you see yourself as the savior or the servant? As the creator or the curator? As the master or the mediator? Your attitude towards power and responsibility will follow your identity as you relate to each person and situation. Hitler saw himself as the dictator who wanted to eliminate the Jewish race in order to uphold the supremacy of the German race!

Like money, power can be attractive and addictive. If it is given to an immature or irresponsible or crazy person, it could be disastrous. You can easily see that in history as well as the villains in movies, or bring it closer to home: wolves dressed in sheep’s skin in churches! Many wolves have caused splits and not just headaches only. All these traumas have to do with misuse of power! Mother Theresa once said: “You can accomplish anything you want as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”

A missionary lady once told me she used to write the sermon and coach the local man on Saturday to preach it. Then she would sit in the pew on Sunday praying and joyously praising God when people told the preacher how his sermon encouraged them. What mattered to this missionary was that the Word was proclaimed and God’s people were being fed, not who got the credit! Think about that! This lady has the power and exercises her responsibility gracefully!

Let me take you to a scene from “The Return of the King,” the final episode of the Lord of the Ring. Frodo and Sam are on their last stretch to Mount Doom to destroy the ring. The burden of carrying the ring is too heavy and Frodo just can’t go on any more. Sam says, “Mr. Frodo, I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry you.” Sam sees his responsibility in this mission and he is the one with the power to carry it through. Sam never thinks about who gets the credit because his concern is on caring and assisting Mr. Frodo.

How I wish all missionaries had a Sam by our sides as we journey.