Yesterday I asked a section of my students to raise their hands if they thought power is something God gives us. Only half of the students raised their hands. When I asked the other half what they thought they spoke about how power is something people earn because of their success. “If we are all children of God, aren’t we equal?” I asked. Not really, I was told, status sets us apart.
I believe that the electric energy of equality has the power to unite all.
Within the core Christianity is a belief that all people are children of God. We are all made in God’s image and likeness, we are all people of dignity. Everyone is holy and is worthy of honor. God is alive within all of us. Although our diversity helps us all to be more whole, no one is better than anyone else. God sees as us equals and loves us all equally.
But then there’s the way society sees it. Common culture tells us a totally different story. Before we can read, we learn about winning and losing. Competition is fun. From a very young age we are taught that success and achievement are about accomplishing more, having more and earning more. In the dynamics of capitalism, we base power upon wealth. The rich and powerful seem to perpetually oppress the poor and powerless. Perhaps it is because of this that we blame the poor for their problems and we are convinced that the rich are powerful because they deserve it. Competition and consumerism connect with our experiences of power. The fanfare of the Super Bowl is a manifestation of these attitudes.
The principles of non-violence imply that all people have the same power. No one is actually more powerful than anyone else, just as in the eyes of God no one is better than anyone else. The problem is that power is abused, misused, misunderstood and unknown. Those who are more wealthy begin to believe they have the power to control, lead and guide. Those who are poor haven’t experienced the wealth and goodness of their own power. We don’t really need to empower others, we need to encourage them as they desire to unleash the power they already have.
As we try to be faithful Christians, the tension between God’s ways and the world’s ways seems to keep us moving in circles. When we want to experience what power really means we look to Jesus for grounding and growth. The early Christians had some pretty good ideas about all this:
“Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word [that] he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all..” -Acts 10: 34-36
We know Jesus loves all. Jesus has been with us through our highs and lows. Jesus’ humility is power’s true way. Into the broken, hurting, bleeding cracks of creation Christ is crying. He’s with us and showing us what is real.
Powerlessness and being powerful blend together in a place of true humility. We know we are nothing without God and this knowledge sets us free. As we bend to God’s power, we are enlivened for God’s good mission. We’ll build unity so that status no longer sets us apart. Energized to be together, we love like Christ loves: with great humility. May it be so, amen, indeed.