Archive for July, 2021

power versus love

July 21, 2021 4 comments

There are always two worlds. The world as it operates is largely about power; the world as it should be, or the Reign of God, is always about love. Conversion is almost entirely about moving from one world to the next, and yet having to live in both worlds at the same time. As you allow yourself to loosen your grip on the ego or bad forms of power, you will gradually see the inadequacy and weakness of mere domination and control. God will then teach you how to tighten your grip around the second world, which is the ever-purer motivation of love.

Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion. I must admit, it is rare to find people who hold both together in perfect balance—who have found their power and used it for others or people who have found love and use it for good purposes. I think the Reign of God includes both love and power in a lovely dance.

I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be “cunning as serpents but gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). It is a beautiful combination of both authority and vulnerability.

*Adapted from “Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount,” p. 41 

I love this so much, and the truth of it all is enough to stop any serious reader in his or her own tracks. Have you ever been accosted in the middle of a power grab, with that small still voice that says, “What am I doing?” I have, so I’m not pointing a finger.  It’s not much different from the Voice that says, “What are you doing?” But, let me put it in bold for you: Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion.  Personally, I don’t think it’s possible in the least, apart from the supernatural influence of humility downloaded directly from the Holy Spirit. We beat our chests too easily in matters concerning power (politics, winning—things we want to control). It’s a convoluted cluster when we wear the label without the nature of our Source. Peterson translated it perfectly when he writes, “Love doesn’t strut” (1 Corinthians 13, The Message). Have we lost our “eyes to see” how messed up this can be?

I wonder if we’re doing the real math concerning these matters. It feels to me that the kingdom agenda has been completely derailed, or even worse—abandoned—for power politics by our horizontal (man-focused) allegiances to those who claim to be “followers of the Christ,” but lacks any real evidence of compassion, gentleness, peace, or love. I realize that Elvis has left the building on this issue, but what is required for us to readjust to “powerless,” “power-under” living?

A woman recently told me, “We (the Church) need revival.” It always makes me wonder what is really meant when someone utters those words. I suspect there is some deep longing for an emotional reattachment to some long-lost memory of the “glory days” of the past. We DO need revival, but what I know about revival usually begins with one person… then two… then a dozen… who decide that living and loving like Jesus is the main thing. We DO need a revival… no question, but it’s always going to reveal more fruits of the Spirit: less “me” power, and more of “God’s” love.  That is the real power. Power that counts. —MDP

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the normality of change

As we increasingly abide in Jesus Christ, live in that heart, see through those eyes, we begin to notice a strange paradox. We the sheep begin to take on the nature of the Shepherd! Every metaphor and parable has its limits, and this story in John 10 puts us in the role of sheep. Sheep are not notable for their charm or intelligence. They are singularly clueless. They wander off and get lost. They eat poisonous weeds. They fall into ravines. They graze at the same spot until they strip it of all grass and pollute the ground. (Actually, this does sound like a lot of us humans!) At best, sheep are neither exciting nor creative. Is this really the way God sees us? Does God want us to be, at best, submissive sheep?

Not at all. Jesus told many other stories that reveal humans as complex and potentially creative sons and daughters of God. We are not just to be obedient animals for all eternity. This story enters on the deep love, and trust, the bond, and the discerning recognition of the characteristics of the shepherd. This particular story does not emphasize the tremendous paradoxical truth that we the sheep change. In our shepherding role to others—as parent, teacher, caregiver, counselor, listening friend—we begin to guide as we have been guided. Our faces and voices will change. The way we listen and respond will change, not through imitation but spontaneously through deep love. “When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

 —Flora Slosson Wuellner, “Enter by the Gate”

I wonder how often it’s noticed of us that the salute on our lives is easily discerned and attributed to that “deep love” of Jesus’ influence. Have our “faces and voices” been changed by His holy love? Is it noticeable… is it visible… tangible? Is it practically evident to those who catch a glimpse of the “real us” outside of religious environments? —MDP

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