24th March 2019
Power, it’s all about Power.
In the beginning God gave us power. He gave us power over ‘the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, over livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ He gave us power so that we would care for the earth (it tells us that in Genesis) and he saw that it wasn’t good for us to be alone, so he gave us each other, to help each other, to share the power, and in the words of Spiderman, the great responsibility that comes along with it.
And God saw that it was very good.
But, as always happens when humans get a taste of power, we wanted more, Genesis 2 tells us that Eve ate the fruit of the tree, not only because it was pleasing to the eye, but because it was “also desirable for gaining wisdom” she wanted more, more than to rule over the whole earth, she wanted the wisdom of God. She was power hungry. And so sin entered the world.
And when God tells us the consequences of this sin he tells us we will always fight for power. This relationship between humanity that had been equal and fruitful and beautiful would now be forever damaged. God told Eve “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Patriarchy, one of the first consequences of the fall.
But that relationship between Adam and Eve, the one that’s now damaged by power struggles, is it just supposed to be looked at as the relationship between husband and wife? In the Genesis story Adam and Eve represent the sum total of all of humanity. Yes they were husband and wife, but more than that, they were all of us. These struggles and fights for power don’t just exist between men and women, they exist between all humanity. They’re at the root of so many of the world’s problems, domestic abuse, poverty, war…..Brexit! And even when we’re the ones winning it’s never enough, the more power we get, the more we want “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton) open any newspaper, turn on the TV and you’ll see the devastating consequences of mankind’s misuse of power.
And so the Old Testament continues, Cain kills Abel, tribes war with tribes, kings are killed and deposed, women are raped and murdered and dismembered, whole nations are kept in slavery, our quest for power grows and the consequences of the fall don’t go away.
And throughout it all God IS almighty, he IS the epitome of power and whilst we may blame him when we’re losing and thank him when we’re winning he never uses that power to wipe us off the face of the earth and start again with some less murdery types. Rather he protects us from storms, whispers to us on the wind, goes before us as a pillar of fire to light our way. He closes the mouths of the lions who would eat us, stays the hand of the sword who would strike us down and reminds us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He’s our comforter, our protector and our friend. That’s what an almighty God does with his almighty power. He uses it to love us. As we were supposed to: In the beginning.
But we still don’t get it.
So along came Jesus. God incarnate. Born in the back room of a little house where the animals were kept, raised by a small family in a humble town. He gave up heaven for that, to be with us, he loved us that much.
He showed us, in person, how we’re supposed to use our power.
He didn’t just “fix” people, he raised them up. He took every opportunity to empower others. Read your gospels, read any account of anyone coming into contact with Jesus, they didn’t just leave him physically healed, or fed, they left empowered, they left him as a better version of themselves. His disciples didn’t just follow him around basking in his glory, he took them alongside him, he taught them to be fishers of men, he built his church on them. He fought for the vulnerable, chastising those who misused their power to bring others down, spiritually or physically. He showed us a radical alternative to our attitude to power and money, and it was radical, so radical it upset the status quo.
So we killed him.
He gave us his power and we used it to nail him to a cross. He took his power and he used it to heal us, to feed us, to wash our feet. At any time he could have struck us down with lightning, turned us to pillars of salt. When being tried his words were few. He was never interested in using his power to defend himself from injustice even to save his own life. Because it wasn’t about him, it was about us. He loved us so radically that he allowed us to kill him so we could see what real love looked like, what a real man does when he has power. He loves. He only loves. As we were supposed to: In the beginning.
But we still don’t get it.
We build hierarchies and exclusive clubs. We fight over who is allowed in the club and who isn’t, who is allowed to preach and who isn’t. We wield political power and demand our rights, we raise lawsuits saying we’re standing up against sin when really we’re standing up for ourselves. At worst we cover up abuse scandals in the church, at best we stroll past the homeless in our Sunday best, proud of our efforts to get up to worship before mowing the lawn on Sunday and forgetting we’re supposed to be using our power for others, not ourselves.
We all hold some power in our world, be it through our wealth, our intelligence, our status our health or just the fact we were fortunate enough to be born in the richest 10% of the world. Imagine if every single one of us used our power as Jesus did. As God designed us to in the beginning.
Imagine if we only used every ounce of our power to take care of our planet and of one another. Imagine if everyone, from the meekest to the mightiest wielded power like Jesus did, never with self interest, only for others, only to serve and to worship. What would that look like?
Would it look like Eden? Like reconciliation? Like salvation?