I feel like my thoughts for the past few weeks have been largely dominated by questions of power and relationships. Brandon and I talked about the unique relationship between power and religious authority in a podcast a few weeks ago, but instead of that putting it down as settled in my mind, I’ve instead been reminded of it constantly, especially in the classes I teach. With some students, working on Scripture, we’ve been looking at Joseph in Egypt and how he chose to use his power when his brothers showed up. With others, we’ve been talking about how we are baptized priest, prophet, and king.
For both conversations, the conversation flows around the good and bad that can be done in each situation. I mean, you’d have a hard time blaming Joseph if, when his brothers came in front of him, he had used his position to take revenge on them for their betrayal and selling him into slavery. Instead, he showed mercy and forgiveness. He didn’t make things easy on them, but he did reveal himself and embrace them, send them back to get their families, and live in the best lands of Egypt. He even told them not to blame themselves, because while they intended evil, God used it to save them all.
Similarly, when we talk about the role of the baptized as priest, prophet, and king, we wound up focusing on the purpose of those positions. They are not our own positions, but instead a participation in the ministry of Christ. If that’s the case, then our roles as priest, prophet, and king is going to need to mirror Christ’s. This means that these positions of authority can’t be about us. After all, Christ made very clear, he did not come to be served, but to serve. As priests, we are all called to offer sacrifice to help restore man and God to right relationship. As prophets, we are all called to seek the will of God, to know it, and then to share it with others. Furthermore, as a king, we are not to lord over others, but to guide, guard, and lead those in our care.
There may not be any perfect test for determining whether every authority is being used correctly, but this seems as sure a measurement as any. If the person in charge thinks the power is a privilege, they should be watched carefully. If they think the power is a responsibility and promise to the ones entrusted to them, they have at least one part of it right.