“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, and sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”-Philippians 2:1-8
Do you ever get Holy-Spirit-gut-punched with truth that hurts so bad, but you know you need to hear it? My friend Priscilla confronted me one day in a way only she can do, “Dave, with the body that you live in as a white, cis, hetero, able-bodied, educated Christian male, you can walk into just about any room you want to and be as comfortable as you want to be. And, do you know why that is, Dave? It’s because women, people of color, and queer siblings are shouldering the discomfort in the room.” The truth of her statement touched me at my core. I had been blissfully unaware of how my identities had provided me power and privilege in many different situations. I could no longer turn a blind eye to the power dynamics in the room. I committed myself to getting better at noticing where the power was in the room and responding accordingly. I am still working on this skill.
If you think about your own cultural identities, how much power do you have in your ministry context? Here is an exercise that could help you identify your own power: Write your identity on the second column below and what you consider to be the most powerful identity on the third column below. If your identity matches what you consider to be the most powerful group in your context, give yourself one point. If your identity does not match the most powerful group, do not give yourself a point in the fourth column. See how many points you end up having once you have counted them all up. I have given an example with the first three. You can still complete those with your own information.
|Identity||My Identity||Most Powerful Identity||Points|
What did you discover? Do you have a lot of power in your context or not much? How we respond to others with whom we work could vary depending on if we scored a “4” or a “12” on this power analysis exercise. Eric Law (Director of Kaleidoscope Institute) has introduced a model called “The Cycle of Gospel Living” that has been very helpful for thinking about how we respond to others in light of our own power and privilege. He says that the appropriate Christian response for those with power in a situation is self-emptying (known as “Kenosis” in Greek). In other words, if you scored a “10” on your assessment, the Gospel might be calling you to imitate Christ, take up your cross and shoulder the discomfort that is being experienced by others. But, if you scored a “5”, for example, the Gospel might be calling you to take up more space and claim that dynamic power of the Holy Spirit (“dynamis” in Greek) that dwells inside of you.
As an internship supervisor, you may have a lot of power in the relationship with your intern. How will you wield this power responsibly? At staff meetings, if you are a man who talks over women, could it be that God is calling you to work on this bad habit and improve your listening skills? If you are a woman who does not share her opinion often, could it be that God wants you to speak up more boldly? This takes a lot of acuity to determine the power dynamics that are happening in any given moment and respond accordingly. It takes prayer and discernment. However, if we truly want to live a Gospel-centered life, it is important that we continue to follow the One who emptied himself for our sake and live our lives in response to the free gift we have in Christ. And if God’s grace doesn’t motivate you, maybe a friendly Holy Spirit gut punch from a friend will!
“Cycle of Gospel Living”
Copyright Eric Law, Kaleidoscope Institute, 2009