This is the sixth post in a series on our inadequacy. Read the others here.
Growing up, my father used to call the television remote, the “power”. “Can you give me the power?” “Where is the power?” “I need the power.” He liked having the power. Of course he did, we all do. But real power, deeper than a mere remote control, is often not handled rightly. As Lord Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We have a problem with power. We can be corrupted in our use of it (having too much and not able to handle it) or we just don’t have the power we think we need.
Both of these are true: the power we do have is ruined, not because power itself is bad, but because we are corrupt. And, we really don’t have the power we need. The proof of this is the fact that we still have problems. We aren’t powerful enough to fix the big things in life that need fixing (especially starting with us).
We are inadequate in our own power. Because we don’t like the truth in the previous sentence, we go off chasing after all the wrong kinds of power. And this is where our prophet Lord Acton correctly reflects our experience. But it’s not just the people in power that are guilty of this, we all are.
Continuing our look into the story of the 72 workers in Luke 10 (read the whole story here), let’s focus on one verse, verse 16:
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
First, this is an affront to our grabby hands for power. Nowhere in this verse or this story do the people of God have the power themselves. All of their power comes from somewhere else, it’s derivative. This is something Christians need to hear: we don’t have the power.
Secondly, Jesus has invested His people with some serious power. Whoever listens to us, listens to Jesus. It’s Jesus’ power given to us, and He will use it as He wishes. There’s no room for us to get all prideful about anything here. It’s not about us, it’s about the One Who Sends Us. Jesus also says here that anyone who rejects Him, rejects the One Who Sent Him. That means the same power and authority the Father has, the Son has also.
And in this power and authority, coming from the Triune God, that we are sent. This is true as soon as we become a part of God’s family. Being sent in a power that is not our own becomes a part of our core identity. So to follow Christ means just that: to follow Christ.
The Bible uses the metaphor of an ambassador in other places. I think that’s fittings. An ambassador is someone sent from one country to another country to represent her home country’s values and beliefs. But she must do so in the terms and ways that this new country understands with the humility and curiosity that will help people listen. She must speak the language in a way that is easily understood by her new country. She must understand the customs of her new country and participate in them where she can. She must listen for where the connections between the two countries fit together and embrace them, and find out where there are disconnects and explain them. But she must be tactful, delicate, and respectful.
She doesn’t complain when the new country’s values are different from her home, she knows it will be different. It would be ridiculous to expect the two countries always be the same. In fact, it’s exactly because these two countries are different that her job even exists! She is sent there to contextualise her home country’s values, bringing them to bear on her new country, in ways they understand. That’s the privilege she has as an ambassador, a citizen of one country and resident of another.
Living in this way with respect to power saves us from pride because we realise it’s not our own power. It saves us from arrogance because we know that we don’t have it right, Jesus does. It saves us from laziness, we don’t have the power in ourselves, it comes from our King who is on the move. It saves us from our fears of failure and rejection in that we aren’t being rejected, Jesus is.
The ultimate example of using power correctly comes from how the King of the Universe decided to use His omnipotent power. He took the form of a helpless baby, grew up in a podunk village, lived a short life, and was tortured and killed by an oppressive state for people who were his enemies.
Jesus had all the reason to use His power in vengeance, but He sacrificed the power He had so that we could be invested with His. This is the story of the gospel. Anyone who identifies with this story and this God has no right or standing to act prideful, arrogant, unjust, or without mercy.
This is the Christian stance towards power: in ourselves, we are inadequate to wield it rightly, and are in need of it simultaneously. Through Jesus, we can be saved by power’s corruption and embrace the lack in ourselves, finding everything we need in Him.