I’ve done a lot of thinking t about power over the last few days. For some reason everyone seems to want to be in power, keep others out of power, know people in power, or influence those in power. This is quite natural, I suspect.
Anyone who aspires to freedom or self-determination can easily surmise that power is the fast-lane, one-way highway for reaching that goal. Unfortunately, I see very little in the way of power-grabbing in the way Jesus lived. As a matter of fact, Jesus does not only not reach for power, He goes out of His way to relinquish it; to “empty himself,” as the apostle Paul put it.
When Peter ask Jesus what the disciples will receive at the end of days, the Savior responds with blessings but then informs the disciples that many who are now first shall be last. “The first shall be last,” is the same statement Jesus made when the disciples were arguing among themselves about which one of them would sit at the right hand of Jesus.
It seems that Jesus has little time or appreciation for power-plays. He is not interested in those who want to puff themselves up, regardless of the reason or issue. It seems to me that the one person in the history of humankind who could have wielded unending, unthwarted, unbelievable power chose not to. Instead He lowered Himself, considered others better than Himself, and died for them.
Did He suffer an injustice? Yes. Did He suffer because someone else was wrong? Yes. Could He have stopped it and been right for doing so? Yes.
Be He didn’t!
Jesus seemed to know what many of us either forget or never learned. Power is cold, callous, and conflictual if it doesn’t originate in love. Not love for what we want, or a love for how we think it should be, not even a love for what we think is right, but love for what God loves–people.
Jesus knew that all authority on Heaven and Earth had been given to Him, but it is His restraint in unleashing it that is most impressive. I suppose Jesus knew that displays of power would lead us to worship power instead of God. Unfortunately, from all my years of church attendance, participation, and ministry, I know that Jesus was right. For most churches, it is power not Jesus to which most of us aspire.
Perhaps we should heed these words from C.S. Lewis, “The descent to hell is easy, and those who begin by worshipping power soon worship evil.”
My prayer for myself and for the church is simple. The next time any of us has an opportunity to display our power let us first ask to be made empty.