I dare you to read this post on how we use the power we’ve been given and compare it to how Jesus taught us to use power.
This brings us back to the question addressed in my last post, How We Can Change the World. Hunter’s essay II moves into these questions of power. Where does power come from? How do those of us proclaiming to be Christians exert that power? He believes that one of the main centers where Christians find their power is through politics.
Whether we like it or not, power is a part of everything we do. This is clearly seen in every aspect of culture: “The power that inheres in culture is the capacity to refine what is real in all the ways that reality presses against us. What is truth? What is knowledge and legitimate science? What are the goods worth having in life and the ideals worth sacrificing for/ What is a family? Legitimate sexuality? Friendship? What is moral behavior? Just action? And by the same token, what is inappropriate and unacceptable behavior and what is abhorrent?” (p. 178).
This forces me to ask a very real personal question. How do I handle power in my own life? And how consistent and true am I to the Biblical commands of Jesus regarding what I do with the power that has been allotted to me? Certainly, because I live in the west, a place of wealth and power compared to the rest of the world, I have even more responsibility regarding how I use power.
“The creation mandate, then, is a mandate to use that power in the world in ways that reflect God’s intentions…power is inherently tainted and its use inherently compromising of the standards to which Christ beckons.” (p. 183).
I’m not sure I’ve considered power in this light. I have power, to one extent or another. I use it for my benefit, whether aligning myself with a certain political candidate, utilizing money I possess to purchase certain products that I feel will give me more power, even choosing a career that will further what I want to do with me life is a form of exerting power. Even those choices aren’t available to most people living in other countries.
But how am I conforming the little power I possess, to the realities of what Christ taught and modeled about how I should use my power?
“Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, Christ laid bare the illusions on which worldly power was based…His birth was the world-historical event that ruptured the established structures of power-spiritual, cultural, social, and political-and inaugurated a new reality for humankind. Through his very life, he exposed the true nature of these powers as forces inimical to God’s purposes in creation.” (p. 188).
The bottom line is that Christ changed everything. He redefined power as “powerlessness.” The image of power held by the world was completely shattered by Jesus as He lived a different life that exuded the power of God’s kingdom.
“Jesus self-consciously repudiated (his) rejection of worldly power. (He) voluntarily bear the humility of becoming a man, but as a man, he took on the nature of a servant. At no time was this more poignantly symbolized and demonstrated than when he washed the disciples’ feet…He was aware of the status degradations he was submitting himself to and the loss of social standing and reputation that he endured by doing so…Yet he embraced these humiliations fully and gladly, never using the power he had to burnish his reputation…Compassion defines the power of his kingdom more than anything else. It was the source, the means, and the end of his power.”
I am convicted by this truth and have to look at my life in light of what Jesus modeled. Of course, I believe this deep down somewhere inside my soul. It’s why I’ve given my life to serve orphans and vulnerable children. It’s why “pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress,” (James 1:27). But living it out everyday is a challenge. How do I treat others especially those I don’t like or my enemies. Do I love my neighbor as I love myself? Am I generous and giving to those who are in need? I wish I was doing better. But this is what discipleship is about: conforming my life more and more to the life and teaching of Jesus.
How about for you? How are you using your God-given power? Is this a challenge to live everyday? How do you do it?