Power Should Be Used to Serve

Editor’s note: At the beginning of December, China experienced highly unusual protests. Many people protested harsh Covid restrictions, students at prestigious universities foremost among them. As the protests gathered steam, a university professor began to gather his thoughts on the role of power in society, and how the church might approach power differently than the culture around it. This essay began with the professor’s online discussion with other believers at the time of the protests, but later evolved to include further thoughts and examples.

This translation has been edited and rearranged for clarity.


The Point of Power

Power should be used to create goodness, to make people comfortable, happy, relaxed, free, encouraged, and cared for. Power should be used to serve those for whom it is intended. The point of power is to ask: “What can I do for you?”

Power should especially be used to serve those who are weak and vulnerable. Those who enjoy power should humble themselves to serve the disadvantaged, those who are unable to have a voice and are rejected by others. The use of power in this way might create an entry point for the gospel. Using power like this requires the virtue of complete humility, and a willingness for behind-the-scenes self-sacrifice.

>
”“Power should especially be used to serve those who are weak and vulnerable. Those who enjoy power should humble themselves to serve the disadvantaged, those who are unable to have a voice and are rejected by others.”

Power and Relationships

My thoughts on power are probably related to my thoughts about the question, “How should Christians live?” In recent years I have realized there is a problem: in church, Christians receive a lot of intellectual teaching, but believers often have difficulty living a life of virtue. This may be related to the fact that we pay little attention to our use of power. We seldom look at relationships from the perspective of “power relationships.”

Although no one can escape these things, in the church tradition, we rarely talk about power or politics. Of course, all of my thoughts on this are related to my profession, as I study and teach the history of political thought in the university.

Every Christian needs to be equipped to approach all aspects of life from the perspective that power exists to serve the weak. For instance, parents have a power-and-weakness relationship with their children. There are many other examples: pastors and their congregations; teachers and students; supervisors and their teams at work. All of these relationships, when viewed from the perspective of power, actually contain a political dimension.

An example of this can be found in a colleague I have, who is also a member of the church. She is a professor in a fairly high position. For many years, her research has been devoted to the protection of the elderly and women. In the church, she is very humble. You can see that she speaks to her students and to people who are less educated as equals. She serves them, too.

Power in Society

There is a real lack of proper understanding and proper use of power in Chinese society. I hope the church can help promote a transformation in the way our society understands and uses power. The way Chinese people feel about power is usually based on a great deal of harm they have experienced based on the abuse of power. All this has led to a bad cultural environment, an environment in great need of change.


Would You Pray With Us Today?

Sign up to receive our weekly prayer emails with requests for the house church in China

>
”“There are few well-organized groups in Chinese society, so the community life of the church is actually very rare. In this community life, the church needs to demonstrate what right and good power relationships look like.”


Would You Pray With Us Today?

Sign up to receive our weekly prayer emails with requests for the house church in China

The current state of Chinese society is in great political disorder. The corruption of power is obvious. The church needs to think and practice carefully to respond to the most pressing issues in people’s lives. There are few well-organized groups in Chinese society, so the community life of the church is actually very rare. In this community life, the church needs to demonstrate what right and good power relationships look like.

Power and the Church

The church does not demonstrate these healthy power relationships in order to take a political stance. The church demonstrates good power relationships so as to provide normal people with a picture of flourishing. This flourishing is not limited to individuals and families, but extends to the whole community.

Any organization has the potential to produce a marginalized group. The vulnerable part of the group – the part of the organization that has a weak stance in power relationships – might lose the attention of others, or even their voice within the group.

>
”“The devil may imitate and mimic God’s omnipotence, authority, and command, but he cannot play at humility and self-sacrifice. The devil is afraid of the cross.”

The power of the gospel lies in a community that reaches out from the center to the margins. In the gospel, the center embraces and protects the marginalized. This culture of love flowing from God is the driving force for change.

I have been a believer for a long time. Over time, I have become more acutely aware of the various temptations we encounter from the devil. Among those temptations are knowledge, ability, eloquence, and even piety. Each of these virtues can be used by the devil. However, the devil cannot use humility for his purposes, because he himself is a spirit who is full of pride.

Reflecting on this may give us another reminder of how we can remain humble as we exist in power relationships. For me, it is always a tremendous encouragement – with an immense restorative force – as I think of the all-powerful Lord descending to such a humble level on the cross to serve and save us.

The devil may imitate and mimic God’s omnipotence, authority, and command, but he cannot play at humility and self-sacrifice. The devil is afraid of the cross.


多马 Duo Ma is a pseudonym for a university professor and longtime believer who studies and teaches the history of political thought.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray that the church in China will follow Christ’s example and willingly lay down power in order to serve and protect the weak.

Share This Story

Further Reading

hangjia-xu-3ZdSvOSlm4c-unsplash
The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
Read More
billow926-ND4-6joi3t8-unsplash
Qingdao: How to Pray
Read More
cajeo-zhang--Qkr9oCfcZo-unsplash
Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
Read More

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

Videos

ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

Videos

Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

Videos

Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

Videos

Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Videos

Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

Videos

Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

Videos

Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

Videos

Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

Videos

Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

Videos

Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

Videos

Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

Videos

Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

Videos

Stories from Shanghai

give

A short message about partnering with us.