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Human vs. spiritual: Where does your power come from?

Friday, February 1, 2013

There has always been a debate about the difference between Spiritual power and human power.

Human power can do many things, but relies on such things as a proper pedigree, positions of status and connections among those in the human power structure. In my personal experience, those who are scrambling for human power tend to know very little about Spiritual power.

Human power has its foundation in human pride, emotions and self-centeredness. Spiritual power relies on God and the indwelling, and leading of the Holy Spirit. There are at least several items that we can contrast to illustrate this difference.

Divine love is the first. This form of love uses its power for the good of others. When Jesus healed, preached, corrected and instructed the concern was always for others. Christians are to always use power to destroy evil so that love can redeem the good. Power used to advance reputations, inflate egos, or to oppress others is not motivated by love.

Humility is the next item. Humility is power under control. Nothing is more dangerous than power in the service of arrogance, but power controlled by humility is teachable. Spiritual power is accountable and grateful to God and others and knows its human limitations. Human power is corrupt and oppressive.

The next item of Spiritual power is self-limitation. This power refrains from doing even some good things out of respect for the individual. Jesus refused to jump from the top of the Temple, (Matt. 4:5); make more bread (John 6:26), or give a sign to the Pharisees. (Matt. 26:53) Jesus was our example of limiting power out of respect for others. Human power seeks to throw off all limitations.

The next item of Spiritual power is joy. This is not the bubbly joy of the superficial. It is a joy that is not conditional, it is a confident assurance in Christ which knows sorrow and grief and yet finds gratitude, praise and hope even in the worst of situations. WARNING! Spiritual joy can be annoying to those who rely on the human power of conditional happiness.

Spiritual power also contains within it vulnerability. It often lacks the panache, and symbols of human authority. It is a self-chosen position of meekness that often confounds those who seek human power, because in human terms it looks powerless, but can overcome the powerful. From this point of view, what we often call the narrative of the prodigal son could more correctly be called the parable of the powerless almighty father. The father does not dominate but patiently waits. Many Christians imprisoned for their faith have discovered, for example, that trying to maintain a measure of control over their lives by obtaining food or clothing put them at the mercy of their captors. But by admitting their vulnerability their captors no longer maintain power over them, and find that the power of defenselessness can have an advantage.

The next item of Spiritual power is submission. Jesus knew what it meant to submit to the will of the Father. (John Ch.17) When we submit to Jesus Christ, we gain fellowship with Him. When we submit scripture we learn the perfect ways of God. When we submit to others, as Paul directs us in Eph. 5:21, we gain access to their wisdom, counsel, instruction and encouragement. Human power seeks to cause others to submit to you, which can cause an isolation of loneliness at the top of human power.

Freedom is the last item I share with you now even though there are more. Freedom is experienced as a release from the powers of darkness which puts the selfishness of man in charge and blinds one to the light of God. Jesus, when He walked on earth, never used His power to control or exploit others. Spiritual freedom allows an intimate friendship without a slavish need to please on either side. Simply put, human power is power over someone; spiritual power has no such need to control.

Where does the power in your life come from?

Dale Cummins is the vice president of the Bourbon County Ministerial Alliance. He is also pastor of Cherry Grove Baptist Church.