Morse Code for Using Power: “A Kiss” (Acknowledgment), “Water”(Hospitality) & “Oil” (Honor)
In her book “Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence” MaryKate Morse discusses four kinds of power and gives an excellent and moving description of these using the story of Jesus, the Sinner Woman and Simon.
“Expert Power” belongs to someone who has knowledge or expertise in a specific area. It can be earned.
“Character Power” belongs to a person who has status or voice based on their integrity. It is given by a group to an individual.
“Role Power” belongs to a person who fulfills a specific role in an organization. This person often has the power to hire and fire.
“Culture Power” belongs to a person who holds influence in a certain culture. This varies from culture to culture.
Morse explains that Simon had all four of these types of power and the Sinner woman had none of them. However, the powerless becomes powerful through service in this story.
In Luke 7:36-50 Simon invites Jesus to his home for a meal and conversation. The Sinner Woman joins with others to attend the gathering. Simon does not extend to Jesus the traditional hospitalities of a kiss (typically on the cheek if expressing equality, on the hand if expressing respect, or on the feet if acknowledging lordship), water for his feet (a bowl with water to express equality, a washing by a servant to express respect, or a washing by the host to express service) nor oil for his head (personal anointing showing equality, anointing by a servant showing respect, or anointing by the host demonstrating reverence). Jesus sits at the table without being recognized as an equal or shown any type of honor. The Sinner Woman recognizes this and moves to Jesus to wash his feet with her tears, dry them with her hair and anoint his head with her perfume. She steps out of her powerless position and takes a risk to honor Jesus. What a moving and important illustration of the power of service. Simon tried to display his power by not serving and the Sinner Woman became powerful by serving; and everyone witnessed it that day.
How might we use this example to demonstrate power in our spheres of influence? If we don’t still kiss, wash one another’s feet and anoint with oil, how might we relate these to contemporary settings? I suggest that “the kiss” could represent “acknowledgement”; acknowledging a person properly and welcoming him/her to the space where interaction will take place. The water could represent “hospitality”; offering the basic necessities of food or drink; or asking if he/she needs anything before entering the meeting space. And the oil could represent “honor”; to honor another because he/she is a human brother or sister, another child of God. This may be accomplished by respectful introductions without words that might belittle the guest. Perhaps the meanings of these gestures (equality, respect, reverence) might still be expressed the same as in Simon’s house. For example, if the guest is shown where the drinks are (equality), if an assistant is asked to get the guest a drink (respect), or if the host pours the guest a drink (reverence).
How might you use “a kiss” (acknowledgment), “water” (hospitality), and “oil” (honor) in order to demonstrate power through service in your spheres of influence?
Morse, MaryKate. “Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence”. Downers Grove, IL. InterVarsity Press, 2008.