A guest post by Joy LaPrade…
As sermon applications go, I was pretty sure this one wasn’t relevant to me at all.
Joseph’s servant leadership might be a good example for people in management positions and high-powered careers, but it certainly didn’t apply to my life as a mother of small children.
But that morning, I feel like God gave my thoughts a nudge in a better direction. Yes, by the culture’s standards I may occupy an insignificant role, but to the little people in our family I am essentially an all-powerful ruler, the one who sets bedtimes and mealtimes, and has the final say on whether we watch “Dora the Explorer” or “Thomas the Tank Engine.”
Am I using that power to serve them, or myself?
I thought about the times I was more concerned with stopping their fights over a toy because the noise was getting on my nerves, rather than taking the time to truly make peace and teach them how to love one another.
And I realized I don’t just have power in my role as a mother. Every person occupies a position of influence in our relationships with our family, friends and others close to us. We can use that power to love and serve them, or to use them for our own benefit, the way Potiphar’s wife sought to use Joseph.
But first we need to be aware of our power.
Author Donald Miller points out, “The most dangerous person in the world is a person who does not understand how powerful God made them to be. These people recklessly destroy because they think they are invisible and they don’t matter. But the sad and happy truth is they do matter. They matter to everybody around them.”
The more Satan can persuade you that you aren’t important, the more he can turn the power you actually do have to his purposes.
Joseph clearly had power when he was second in command over Egypt. But what about before then? As a slave in a foreign land, then as a prisoner wrongly convicted, it would have been easy for Joseph to believe what he did was insignificant. From that perspective, he could have slept with Potiphar’s wife. Perhaps he could have taken Potiphar’s money for himself rather than running the household well. In prison, he could have become bitter and hopeless.
Instead, as a slave and a prisoner, he used the power he did have to serve others, however insignificant he may have felt at the time.
The Bible is full of reminders of the power we hold in our relationships. We are told that our words can give life or death. We are told to forgive one another, to bear with one another. This isn’t because it’s a nice idea and will make us better people. Just as Joseph did, we have opportunities to seek vengeance against those who harm us. Or we can wield the power of forgiveness, mercy and grace.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker in the 2002 “Spiderman” movie. Because Peter feels the weight of his power he becomes a hero instead of a villain.
If we are followers of Christ, God has called us to be part of His life-saving work in the world, to be “heroes.” We need to recognize the power God has given us and use it to serve His plan, to save lives. We need to remind our children and one another of the great mission to which we’ve been called.
And even as we fail and use our power to hurt others rather than serve them, we can draw hope and encouragement by seeing how Joseph points to Christ, the one who used His power to serve others–to serve us.
As Tim Keller reminds us, “Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed him and uses his new power to save them.”