I learned something new a few months ago. It came as I did my daily morning check in on a website. At that particular moment, I was ready to get some thoughts down to share with others. (That it is four weeks later, and I am finally returning to these thoughts, is another issue.) Back in January I read an article that reminded me of how we see power as a nation, compared to how we see power as people of faith.
As a person of faith, I am called to see and understand power through a very different lens. I should see power differently than our nation and our western culture sees power. The world sees power in terms of a dynamic of control. Power allows one to dictate, direct, to enforce one’s will. In the world view, power is usually one-sided... or at least one side has an advantage over the other side, in terms of power.
As a Christian, and especially as a man of faith, my example of power rests not in force, but in the person of Jesus. Jesus was unique – he had all the power in the world, and he could use it when and if he wanted to. In moments of need, like when he was being arrested or led to the cross, he could have called down legions of angels. It would have been “story over” for the Romans or for the Jewish religious authorities. At other times Jesus did demonstrate great power. But it was a power used for good, for healing, for restoration, for bringing wholeness.
On Friday, January 19, the United Nations passed the Treaty on Nuclear Weapons. The world's governing body elevated peace, unity and cooperation over and above power and force. The treaty declared “the manufacture, possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal under international law”. Their action presents power in a different way. 75 years after a nuclear bomb was first used, the U.N. declared that there is no longer a place in their world for such weapons. And yet there are still almost 14,000 nuclear weapons around the world. Not all of the world’s nations signed the treaty. Some nations still see these weapons as a way to exert power over those whom they have disagreements. Hope remains though, because for the U.N. as a whole, power now rests in the process of making peace, seeking cooperation, and working toward compromise.
In the scriptures I see Jesus modeling this same understanding of power. For Jesus, and for all of his followers, power is not about dictating or forcing one’s way. It is not about being right while all others are wrong. It is not about “us” versus “them”. Jesus’ understanding of power was seated in his understanding of love. Power, for Jesus, was guided by love. Love offers grace. Love brings hope. Love conquers all. Love gives life. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love wins.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
If you want to test which method is holy, just and good, then I invite you to try an experiment. To see whether practicing Christian love or wielding worldly power is truly best, first spend a week dominating, lording over, forcing your way... with your wife or husband, with your significant other, with your friends, with your children, or with your boss. Then spend a week allowing love to guide all you do and say, just as Jesus modeled for us. Try giving out an extra dose of love, kindness, grace, mercy, forgiveness. Compare the two and decide which is the better way. Which is the best path to walk in this life. I believe that after these two weeks, you will choose to love as Jesus loves because love is power.
In John 13: 34-35, Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” Jesus did not use any word more often than “love” to describe discipleship. As we consider the power we have and the ways we choose to employ that power, may we first consider our faith. In all of our responses to others, may love be our first filter. May we seek to practice love over power by following the example of Jesus.
Loving God, thank you for the example of love set by Jesus Christ. When I am tempted to exert power to get my way, when I am about to say something that reflects my sinful nature, whisper into my heart the way of love. Lead me and guide me to be your love lived out this week. Amen.
ABOUT JOHN BRITT...
I live in a small town on the edge of the Black Hills of South Dakota. My wife Kristin, and two of my adult children, Sam and Abby, live with me. Although I was born in South Dakota, most of my growing up years were in Connecticut. After finishing graduate school and teaching one year in a high school, Kristin and I moved to a very small town in southwestern South Dakota in 1991. After teaching in a combined 7th-8th grade classroom for two years and being blessed with the birth of Matthew, we moved to Rapid City, and I taught middle school for twenty years. Matthew now lives with his wife Alex in Forth Worth, Texas.
During the last few years of my 23-year teaching and 21-year coaching career, God began to work on my heart. For the last two years of teaching school, I quit coaching and began working part-time as the Youth Director at my church. During those two years, God’s call intensified in my life. In 2012 I left teaching and entered full-time ministry. In 2018 I completed my coursework at Garret Evangelical Seminary and became a commissioned local licensed pastor. I am now serving my third United Methodist Church. Walking with others through life as we grow in faith together is what guides my ministry.
My mornings begin with prayer, reading, study, and writing. For about eight years I have written a blog each day that centers on the daily lectionary readings. If you’re interested, you can find that blog at pastorjohnb.org. In my spare time I enjoy gardening, backpacking, playing music, and making wine and beer. When I retire I’d like to own and operate a bed and breakfast with a small brewpub.
#boldlyshine, #thedentedfender, #JohnBritt, #biblestudy, #Jesus, #God, #loveoverpower #friendship, #blessings, #faith, #friends, #lightindarkness, #intention, #light, #loveofGod, #slowingdown, #makingtime, #timewithGod, #loveofJesus