I have been preparing to preach a sermon on power and authority this Sunday. As part of my informal research, I have asked several people to define the words power and authority for me. Are they the same? Are they different – and if so, how? Most people gave a similar response: a short pause, followed by an attempt to reason the similarities and difference between the two terms. It was our youth pastor who gave the best response. After pausing for a moment, he said, “You can feel it. The difference is there. But articulating it is hard to do!”
Power and authority are major themes in the Scriptures. It is incredibly important that Christians develop a positive theology for power and authority – not only so that we know how to handle them rightly, but also so that we know how to prevent and respond to their abuse. One of the reasons why churches have proven incapable time after time in preventing and responding to abuse is because we do not have a positive theology for how to handle power and authority with godliness, humility, and respect.
So what do we mean by the terms power and authority? While I cannot attempt to say everything that could be said, here are six points for us to keep in mind as we develop a theology of power and abuse.