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Can We Abuse What We Never Had?

Photo by: fanz Francois de Halleux

In my last post I asked whether it is possible to abuse power, strength, and freedom—but not authority.

The question sounds ridiculous to those who know the misuse of power and authority when they see it.

Yet, as our discussion showed, many of us know people who think they have the right to push others around even though those persons have never  been given the right, the authorization, the sanction, or the approval to do so.

This even happens far too often in our own homes and churches in spite of the fact that, according to Jesus, in his kingdom power and authority are turned upside down. Those who are the greatest are to take the lowest rank, and the leader is to act like a servant” (Luke 22:26).

It’s because of that huge issue that I’m asking you to do something that might seem like splitting hairs. It may seem like a little point that ignores what we all know– that power and authority can be abused. But in my mind, there is still a fine distinction that has thunderous implications.

One or more of Jesus people may have the strength, power, and freedom to act in a controlling, abusive manner for their own ends. They may think because of their organizational office or head of family position that they have the God-given right to control and abuse those under their grip. But that is an abuse of power. We may call it an abuse of human authority. And I understand along with you why we do so. (But where are the human decisions that sanction such control and abuse).

So at this point—it still seems to me as if the God-given authority we all have is to use whatever gift we have been given for the honor of Christ and the good of one another.

I think that’s what the Apostle Peter asked of the church. Before urging fellow elders of the church to be examples without lording it over the flock (1Peter 5:2-3) he wrote, “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ. All glory and power belong to him forever and ever. Amen. (1Peter 4:10-11).

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17 Responses to “Can We Abuse What We Never Had?”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    Mart, Many people are not given authority but usurp it and so become an abuser of the authority granted to a *Possition*

    The possition of authority, is only different from your thoughts in that the person who fills that possition, is either the proper person for the job or an usuper to the position and so by definition, a usuper, is an abuser of the authority granted that possition.

    An officer in a church can abuse his possition.
    A King or national leader can abuse their possitions.
    A police officer or judge can abuse their possitions.

    And yes Mart, a husband and wife can abuse their possition in the home.

    All an abuse of the authority granted to the possition of authority, by God.


  2. dinakar says:

    Yes Mart,
    I have the authority to wash by brother-in-Christ’s feet
    but I usually don’t do it instinctively.

  3. Mart De Haan says:

    Steve, I absolutely agree that a person can abuse their position, office, badge, calling, professional role etc. What I’d like to try to do in one more post is to show how those positions of “human authority” have become confused with “the ministry” and “the authority of God.”

    Thanks so much for hanging in there with me. Am hoping we can have one more day of conversation on this and I’ll try to do one more post on the confusion of “ministry” and “office” tomorrow.

    Am at a theological conference in Atlanta today, so am going to run to catch the first session now. It’s listed as 3 views of “the rapture.”

    Hope you all have a good day.

  4. mercedes says:

    Hi Mart,

    I normally don’t participate in blogs because I am always very busy with work and caring for my elderly mother. However, when I saw this in my inbox it caught my attention.

    I am glad you are addressing this topic again. As you may remember, I was forced to quit my job at RBC due to an abuse of authority. Even though I try not to think about it, I wonder whether that issue has been corrected. I hope it doesn’t happen to anybody else again.

    I miss the days when RBC did not have “leadership” that thought they were entitled to abuse and intimidate employees so that they could advance their agendas. I find comfort knowing that everybody will have to give an account to God.

    Please remember that YOU have the authority to stop abuse by people under your leadership at RBC.

    RBC will always have a special place in my heart.

  5. dja says:

    A few years ago, our church called a new pastor. We had been without a pastor and our denomination was supplying pastors and seminary students to preach for us in the interim. This man came to preach for us a number of times while we were looking to call a pastor. We all thought his preaching was excellent and decided to put in a call for him to be our pastor. The first few weeks seemed fine. But then, our small congregation began to change. People were tense and something was wrong. This man thought he was a king and treated the congregation as his subjects. He expected the men of our congregation to work at his house(these men were working full-time and had families), and even though they did help him numerous times, his complaint was that people weren’t willing to serve. So, he made an excel worksheet for everything that had to be done at the church and assigned names to the various positions (note: all these things had been getting done by all of us for years without an assigned excel worksheet). He lasted 7 months. He left wanting more money and said some horrible things about the people in our church as well as the various elders in our presbytery. It was so upsetting, but it was a relief when he was gone.

    About two years later we called another man to be our pastor. Although he is young (I think 32 is young:-), he is a solid preacher. But more than that, he is a humble man. This man is one to roll up his sleeves and help people in and out of the congregation. He is there for us, and we are there for him. He walks along side of us and not over us. What a contrast. If I don’t agree with something he has preached, with ease, I can talk to him about it. The other man was not approachable because he was always right. Our pastor is a listner and will consider another’s thoughts and not just conclude that since he is the pastor that he knows everything.

    The first pastor took his “human authority” and used it, I believe, as “the ministry and the authority of God”. His attitude was, “Well, I’m the pastor!” As I said, he thought he came to be the king. It is obvious that our present pastor sees himself as a servant. He is here to serve the Lord and the Lord’s people. This is “the ministry” and he is in this ministry because of “the authority of God”.

    It is a beautiful day in NEPA today. A little windy, but the sun in shining so brilliantly. Have a good day everyone!

  6. SFDBWV says:

    Mart I certainly do not want to jump ahead of your presentation, and appologize if I am.

    God created order out of chaos, or out of nothing. From the beginning God set things in an order. from the 6 days of creation (Genesis 1,2)to the structure of creation itself.

    In Genesis 1:28 God blessed both man and woman and gave them *dominion* over all of the living things of the earth. It is equal between the man and the woman.

    In Genesis 3:16 God punishes Eve, one such punishment is that her husband shall “rule” over her.

    The original Sin, changed God’s original intent.

    The Book of Romans ch 13 explains that God ordained the powers that be. It continues to explain that we are to be subject to those higher powers.

    Special attention, I think, should be paid to Romans 13:8…love one another, he that loves another has fulfilled the law.

    1 Corinthians 11:3 states that the head of man is Christ, and that the head of the woman is man; and the head of Christ is God…..structured order, ordained by God.

    Ephesians 5:23-33 lays down the order of husbands and wives, in the proper order of marriages within the Body of Christ.

    1 Corinthians 12, lays down the order of gifts within the Body of Christ, 1 Timothy 3 lays down the qualifications of church leaders.

    All of the *positions* God created for His purpose are qualified and authorised by their being created by God.

    Once a person enters into a position of authority God created, the responsibility to carry out that position now rests upon that person. He is authorized by the nature of his or her position to carry out the duties of the position, but it now rests with the individual to obey God’s instruction or disobey for self purposes. (An abuse of the authority God presented in the creation of the office they now hold.)

    The institution of marriage, ordained by God, carries with it great responsibility. From both husband and wife.

    If the husband is in obedience to God, he has a position as husband and is authorized to carry out the responsibility of his place in the order of things.

    If the husband is not in obedience to God then he is in sin and not able to carry out the proper responsibilities as the husband.

    If he attempts to claim authority, just by being in the position of husband, he is in err. Because he has abdicated his authority through disobedience to his higher authority, Christ and so God…

    This is how I see it, the authority is given to the position, God will either bless or not the person who fills the position, relevant to their subjection to Christ and obedience to God.


    PS Mart I am looking forward with excitement to the 3 views of the Rapture discussion.

  7. poohpity says:

    I find it wonderful that although Jesus had All authority on earth and in heaven He never used His power to control, manipulate or dominate anyone. He laid down even His own Deity to become a servant to mankind and taught His disciples and us to do the same. Jesus never forced His will on anybody but was gentle in Spirit and humble even unto death. He had nothing to prove to anyone.

    I have so much respect for those even though they are stronger and wiser do not need to prove that to anyone. They usually try to promote and encourage others to be themselves and be all that they can be no matter what they want. They put themselves aside and think of the good that can be done for and to others. They do not cling to their role as one who is the authority figure. That to me is one I would look up to with respect and value not one who is controlling or domineering because that only shows weakness.

  8. Mart De Haan says:

    Hi Mercedes, thanks for your note, even though it reminds me of mistakes I have made over the years. This is a journey. I don’t think we can ever be sure that we won’t slip back into a misuse of position or power at the expense of others.

    I shudder to think of the weak ones who have stumbled over some of our unChrist-like authority-based attitudes.

  9. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    I had a bad experience last year because my boss did not understand authority or how to treat his employees.
    I know RBC and Mart’s heart are in the right place and they, I hope, are not profit motivated.
    Although there seems to be a lot of advertisments attached to their web site and links.
    My biggest mistrust of authority lies with the church!
    I find most “church people” have double standards and are two faced.
    There is only one person I trust, Jesus of Nazareth, I am sure He Is The Only Authority and, although I fail often, I want to live with and for Him.


  10. scout1 says:


    Della, I really liked your post. It showed a great example of abuse of authority. Also, Steve I enjoyed your thoughts as well! Thank you. I know of so many people who do all kinds of things under the title of “God’s Work”. But the fruit they bear really shows whether or not they really had God’s authority to do anything. Their testimony tells all.


  11. Charis says:

    Making a distinction between “God’s authority” and “human authority” is appropriate. And your phrase “unChrist-like authority-based attitudes” rings so true!

    We have been reading Matthew in family devotions and my husband pointed out that the centurion in Matt 8 who is pleading on behalf of his ailing servant mentions several examples of his own authority with great humility (his “human authority” was vast by worldly standards).

    My husband thinks Jesus’ commendation was because the the centurion could see into the kingdom of heaven and recognized Jesus’ kingdom authority so far above and beyond any earthly authority. Perhaps he was even aware of the armies of God just like Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17? “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Matt 8:19

    I would also point out Eph 1:15-23 as a relevant meditation regarding “authority”.

  12. davids says:

    I feel like I am swimming against the tide here, but that’s okay.

    I don’t think it is useful to mix all our responsibilities and spiritual gifts as believers with the responsibilities of those in positions of authority. A person that has the gift of music can use it for good or evil, but that is not the same as the abuse of authority.

    For authority, you need to have power over other people: the ability to give or withhold reward, to punish, to fire, etc.

    Jesus gave us the example of servant leadership, but there can be two types of failures. One failure gets a lot of press, recrimination, and deserved disdain; The person that fails to follow our Lord’s example and seeks to lord it over others. That is the abuse of authority.

    But there is an opposite end that also leads to failure. The pastor that fails to rein in the overbearing members of the flock. The manager that does not control the workplace environment. The parents that do not set boundaries.

    From Romans 12: “6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith … 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    In the expression Servant Leadership are two ideas. The need to set an example though service and the need to provide leadership.


  13. poohpity says:

    How would one ever know what is right or wrong without the direction of God. If we base any behavior on that authority then we were never given permission to abuse something that was not ours to begin with. God gave us authority by Christ living within us to use the things of God with the intent of bringing Glory to God. Anything beyond that in reality is not done by human means but by God who originally determined what was good and beneficial for mankind. God has allowed certain things in life to happen to bring us into a right relationship with God but God alone is the final authority in everything whether we believe in Him or not. When people act apart from the authority of God is when we see abuses of all sorts in our jobs, homes, churches and life.

  14. Mart De Haan says:

    I agree that providing leadership is a way of serving others– as long as it is done in a manner that is consistent with the Spirit and attitudes of Christ…

  15. dinakar says:

    Dear mercedes,
    At the onset let me sympathize with you for what ever has happened in the past. I have been through similar situations in the past, through it all I have learnt one thing, to take my eyes off people (especially the ones in authority) – and keep my eyes on GOD. It actually works both ways I tell my current leaders (in authority over me)
    to trust in my God rather than me.
    GOD has the best plans for you just trust Him.

    Actually when I feel a bitterness against abuse of authority I check myself for lack of faith.

    wish I could chat with you.

  16. Motorcycleminister says:

    Mercedes…I too understand your feelings and thoughts. I facilitate a prison ministry program here in Sumter,Florida. One topic we discuss is why criminals(free people also)do what we do. The answer is 3 fold..POWER, CONTROL, and EXCITEMENT. I worked for a non-profit company whose CEO is also a pastor of a church. He seemed quite nice on the outside. My boss, a female, who “tried” to get me to go to church and study the programs she was studying in, came in to work one day and fired me on the spot for no reason. Well, she stated it was a company restructure decision(I knew better). During my employment of one year there she demonstrated her control and her ability to abuse others. The control and abuse by individuals is certainly not God-lead. These individuals may believe they are God-lead, however, Christ would not treat people like that. Abuse can go very deep in our minds and physically on our bodies. Physical healing comes quicker than the mental abuse. I too am hurt, however, knowing that I put ALL my TRUST in God and Jesus gives me the solid foundation to live each day. Psalms 119 (I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.) Mercedes, we must keep our FAITH in God and not in man/woman. The leaders; ie:CEO’s, who have authority make choices. If they allow their fellow workers to abuse their authority, so be it. Their are many hypocrites out in this world, but I believe that is for another discussion. We have choices and we must obey and ask God to direct us so we(I) do not abuse others. We must not lose FAITH in God. We must use our POWER, CONTROL, and EXCITEMENT to share God’s Love by treating others with the respect and love that Jesus did for all of us. IMHO

    God’s Blessing to all of you. Barry

  17. mercedes says:

    Thanks to all that responded to my post. I know our faith should be in God and God has used my bad experience for good, actually for very good. I also want to make sure you all know that I love RBC and have Mart and his brother Rick in high regard. My bad experience had a different source.

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