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Alternative power-centres

November 13, 2017

This world is prone to challenge legitimate leadership/control/command. For it’s a rebellious and selfish world! This isn’t anything new, for since time immemorial the world has hated to submit to legitimate authority. Here is an illustration:

It is not easy to spot the rival in the life of Paul, but it is evident in glimmers. In an Apollos. However, it appears a subtle and unofficial game.

Initially Apollos merely emerged as an eloquent and compelling highpoint in the peoplescape of a diffuse but certainly emerging spiritual dispensation (consisting of J the B, Christ, Christians, the church, Paul etc. – to be seen against the Jewish/Judaic/OT dispensation of the time). Looking back it is strange that without another parallel, Apollos, as a preacher/speaker/leader should have taken off solely after J the B! For there was no disciple that J the B is known to have passed on his mantle to!? And Christ was the only point J the B made. And if Apollos traced his chief message to this strange voice in the wilderness, certainly he must have concluded in Christ and not chosen to dwell still on J the B alone, for wouldn’t Apollos have wanted to know what came of his hero eventually (J the B, or his final message)?! Would it still make sense to appeal to J the B’s heritage minus Christ (i.e. even after J the B’s beheading)? Hardly! Still, be that as it may, the odds only persistently stack up against the man. When Aquila and Priscilla came along and taught Apollos the way further, he did embrace Christ it appears although the curious default focus around Apollos’ name is almost always his eloquence! It is interesting that having come so close to the most decisive of the big names in the early church namely the Apostles and Paul, the name of Apollos neither figures with the Apostles nor Paul! Why ever would a man one in vision with the early church NOT gather with them, the pillars of the church?! If he is not against them, why not be for them, with them? It is even more interesting that Paul, an exceptional visionary who almost predictably took to potential young ‘apprentices’ in the faith never seemed to pick an interest in this Apollos!! Highly unlikely unless Apollos himself should’ve been unwilling to allow Paul the chance!

But what we do hear is an elaborate discourse in Corinthians about a great and disturbing division in the church where a rival group had been veering away from Paul’s command, not that either Paul HAD to be some sole custodian of that church or that the people shouldn’t have looked elsewhere for leadership, but given that Paul himself was highly likely the Father of that church (i.e. planted it), it would have been fair that he was given his due (only to lead the flock carefully, not live off the flock!), or for any other emerging leader to have willingly humbled himself under Paul’s authority or even refrained from being the source of a schism in a holy/spiritual body! Further, we only hear of Paul going into great detail about the dangers in the persuasiveness of words and eloquence when it comes to declaring the message of God, but on the contrary ‘resolving to know nothing but Christ crucified’ as both necessary and helpful. What Paul actually recommends in place of eloquence is ‘weakness and fear,’ even ‘much trembling.’ He did go into great detail commending his Fatherhood and Apostleship to get back the devotion, loyalty, submission and allegiance of his children in the faith, i.e. the Corinthian church (how much the divider had misled the flock for the original shepherd to have to go to great lengths to win his flock over again!). Paul even overtly listed a string of names apparently hinting at the factions, among them one appealing to Paul, another to Cephas (Peter), Apollos, Christ. Now any fool should be able to acquit 3 of them rather easily, leaving only 1 in doubt! Paul even later goes on to argue that in time God will bring to light the intentions and thoughts of men whose work will be revealed for what it is made of, when tested as by fire: if gold then gold, but if wood or hay, then ashes! Quite a stark allusion to the motive behind seeming innocence and apparent goodwork.

Having said this much, it might even be good to note that it must have been a hard thing for Paul, himself an unusually called (of God) person, to pit himself against a ‘competent’ other (within the church) to either air his suspicions of him, or commend himself while discrediting the other. Further one might guess it is typically not a same Apollos that interacts between Paul, Luke, Aquila and Priscilla. For it is evident what the others easily saw in Apollos, a rising star, Paul curiously didn’t seem to find, for if he did, the epistles might bear more testimony to it for even a weak and timid Timothy himself has repeatedy figured in the Pauline corpus but not Apollos (given his outstanding ability)! In fact it is Acts (the Book) written by Luke that gives a favourable review of the name. Yet, the gentleman that Paul is, he has never made an open statement. In fact he merely enjoins the church to be kind to Apollos.

Either way, whether this was a passing phase, or a conclusive course, there are a few principles to learn:

  • One, that it is not either fair or just to needlessly challenge legitimate authority. If so, there ought to be a very compelling ground/case.
  • Two, it is both necessary and important to submit oneself to the line of command both consciously and purposefully. In fact there must be no effort to vacate a legitimate authority by devise/trickery even if he/she isn’t as competent. (Now this needn’t be taken as a condemnation to disuse or inefficiency, but the allotment of God. For in time, life/truth/time has a way of altering circumstances and opening doors). So humility and patience are needed (from the perspective of being tempted to make of oneself a power-centre).
  • As the flock, the sheep need to discern their legitimate shepherd and pledge their allegiance to the authority God has ordained for the time. Their conduct must condition fellow members of the flock in preventing any illegitimate take over! The flock can be a powerful means to pronounce their shepherd. It helps keep disorderly members of the flock in check. In fact such participation lessens the divide between leader and followers, for the followers become quite leaders in their own right if only their ‘followership’ is of that calibre! And if so, it is more a community, a family of equals, precisely the ideal church (the social grouping could be extended to other applications, namely nation, organization, others) than a hierarchical order.
  • We must learn to prioritize first things first. Eloquence isn’t everything. Pomp, looks and money aren’t anything. What matters is simplicity, humility; knowledge, wisdom, truth. If the main things are intact in our legitimate leader then we have a good leader, and if these virtues occupy our priorities then our priorities are right. In fact when choosing leaders, these are the kinds of people who need our vote of confidence!
  • In fact the legitimate leader himself can take the charge to guard his office (more for the safety of his sheep than guarding his seat), precisely the thing that Paul did in his long letters and rather tough admonitions. Visionary leaders are unafraid of unjust opinions or suspicisions of being branded power-mongers.
  • We need to know and understand the leader’s struggles, discomforts, disturbances and help him function smoothly, free of trouble. For a leader can’t always bare his pain.
  • This chiefly includes being discerning of those looking to become an alternate power-centre (without legitimacy of course, for no able man who is sincere will seek to grab power through the backdoor!). It includes thinking for a leader (i.e. on a leader’s behalf, having his perspective i.e.). It includes refraining the bestowal of affirmation, adulation or appreciation which are good things by themselves, but when spent on the wrong people become a bad thing, a bad thing for the one bestowed, the one it works against and the system to which they relate! That also hints at typical clues in spotting those looking to be an alternative power centre, namely a parading of rival abilities, whether eloquence, money or popularity or others.
  • From Paul’s noble conduct it is even possibe to learn to tackle a needless petty but potentially deadly/devastating power struggle with exceptional grace!

So let us get our arms soundly around the psycho-socio-spiritual equation of power.

From → observation

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