There are many things we purchase or use that carries a caution warning to “Handle with Care.” The warning is a reminder that what we are going to use is meant for good, but if it is not handled properly it can also cause damage. Those who created and designed these tools appear to know that ‘common sense’ is not really common!
There are so many other places where such a warning label could be helpful. Certainly a newborn infant should come with one even though most people know the caution, but I think children who go off to school should wear such labels as well. Those who teach or train our children should not sacrifice standards of excellence and moral codes of conduct, but the warning would be appropriate regarding the child’s heart, learning style, disabilities, values, and family life.
The label might be good to attach to a marriage license. The person we fell in love with and seek to marry isn’t perfect and as days and weeks go by there will be many opportunities to discover flaws or weaknesses not noticed previously. What a time to extend grace and remember, “handle with care.”
That label would serve well in friendships as well. Healthy friendships with clear boundaries can weather many things and a variety of moods and passions, but we should never forget to “handle with care” the heart, soul, and secrets of the person.
That label would be appropriate as well for members of our ministries or those in our churches, not because they are fragile but rather because if they serve under our leadership we have a duty to “handle with care” the essence of who they are.
You see we can so easily forget that each of us has some level of power that needs to be handled with care. You may not feel that way and you likely do not experience it in all situations or all people, but you have it. Why? Because when God created you, He gave you power.
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Genesis 1:26 (NIV)
At the outset we were commanded to rule and subdue the earth and its creatures. Those words − rule and subdue − mean power. We were made in God’s image and He entrusted power over those things noted in the passage. We were and are to reflect Him.
The passage does not say we are to have power over each other, however. But when that terrible fall took place as a result of listening to a beautiful being who seduced us with God’s own words and perverted them, our image was marred and we took on the image of Satan instead of the image of God. After all, Satan was and is a power and glory grabber who seeks to have power over the One he cannot have power over, so he will settle for any one of us he can ensnare whether a Christian or not.
Sadly it is easy for us to love power. If we have it, it reduces our sense of vulnerability in one or more areas and vulnerability tends to make us feel small or frightened.
Power comes in many forms and sizes. Some power is physical. We see that in sports arenas all the time, but we also see it on playgrounds and in classrooms where the taller and bigger kids take charge over the smaller and weaker kids many times.
Other power comes in words and how we use them. Our words can speak life or death.
“The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)
Power can come from positions of authority. We see that as students from teachers, employees of employers, drivers from law enforcement and speed traps on the highway, members of organizations from leaders of those same organizations. Positions carry with them some power and that is not usually an issue except if it is abused and those under those positions are used rather than served and collaborated with. Such positions are evident in any rule-governed entities whether political or ecclesiastical.
Because of the marring of God’s image in us, we can misperceive power. We can believe that the one in power over us also has integrity and then grant them even more power. We can hope they have integrity, but it is not a guarantee.
When we fail to accurately discern good and evil in relationship to power, we open ourselves to abuse and more so when or if we remain silent in the midst of it.
It can be easy to look around us and point fingers at those we believe are misusing or abusing power, but that is the wrong place to start. We must start with checking in the mirror to see if our own image reflects God first and if our character looks like his.
We need to start the with psalmist:
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
We can also learn much from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by pausing long at the one he lists in fifth place:
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Power is not so much good or bad, but how we steward whatever power we’ve been given is what is essential.
We also need to remember we will give account to the One who gave us power.
And He is all powerful.