Power and Responsibility

Over the past week we have heard a lot about the misuse of power leading to the death of George Floyd… We’ve learnt – or been reminded, of how for some they live with the reality that their words aren’t listened to.

As I reflected on these horrendous events, and the injustice that’s all around us in our world I felt fairly overwhelmed. What can I say? What can I do? I don’t know much about all this, I don’t know how it feels to live with racism against me or my loved ones. But at the same time to do or say nothing seems wrong too.

In spider man – Peter Parker’s uncle – Ben Parker – famously says:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

This quote is older than spider man – famous people such as Voltaire, Winston Churchill, and both president Roosevelts also said it. It apparently dates back to May 8, 1793 in a set of decrees during the French revolution.

However, the values behind it go back even further – and are pertinent to us, in an unequal and unjust world. Particularly as people who can watch a YouTube video, are able to read the quotes I put on here, and live under a roof with food to eat. We are privileged – and with privilege – whether we like it or not, comes power. And with power comes responsibility.

In Luke 12:48 it says:

“Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!”

I have been given much, so much will be required. But what can I possibly give?

I think the clue comes in the word “given” – the power I have – has been given to me, it is not my right, I don’t deserve it any more than anyone else. And the God who gave it to me asks that I use what I have been blessed with to “bless others” – not to sit on and keep for my own comfort and enjoyment.

What’s more – he asks that I bless others through being their “servant”. NOT through lording it over others!

How different would our world look if all those with power used it to allow themselves to serve those that felt powerless? To bless them in a way which empowered them rather than oppressing or subduing them.

But that begins with each of us. We each have power in some way. We speak to people, they listen. We post and share things on social media, people read and watch them. We treat people in certain ways, people watch us. We choose the words that we speak to and about people with – and people notice our choices. We keep company with specific people – and it is noted who and what attitudes we have approved of with our friendship.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Are we using that power responsibly? Who are we serving – Ourselves? Others in power? Or the powerless?