A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question, “what makes the world go round?” Sex? Money? Religion? You may remember that I argued that in the end, it’s all about Power. And yet, near the end, I claimed that Power and Love are intimately related.
That’s what I’d like to explore today.
How are Power and Love related?
Rather inevitably, perhaps, we must turn to the subject of God. The greatest power in the universe is God himself. Of course. That’s a no-brainer. And his first act in Our Story is to create, to display power on a scale which our puny minds cannot even fathom. We might think we can conceive of the creation of the universe, but we cannot. In Scripture, it is clear very early on, that God is defined in reference to his power. He is Elohim, the all-powerful Creator.
So Power is in view from the first moment.
But so is Love.
In traditional Christian theology, the universe is brought into being out of Love. Why create at all? Given his foreknowledge of our sin and its horrendous consequences, why bother? Two reasons: self-revelation and Love. The latter drives the former. He creates and reveals the wonders of his glory because he is Love. One of his eternal attributes is his knowledge of the costs of creation. In his state of perfection ‘prior’ to creation, he knows eternally that creation entails sacrifice. And not just any sacrifice, but the most heart-rending exhibition of self-giving love which can be conceived. Carried out to restore and renew a broken world. This self-sacrificial act will be seen as the very definition of Pure Love.
So, right from the start, both Power and Love are in view. They are intimately related.
It is not simply that God is powerful; it’s also the case that he’s extremely interested in the issue of Power itself. Our first sin was not only Pride, it was also a power grab. We actually believed, for a very short time, that we could live in our world according to our own rules. That wisdom sufficient for running our world and our lives, without the need for God, was accessible to us. The Fall is one massive, damning reminder that we are not powerful. We hurt, we hurt others, we fight, we destroy and then we die. Every day, we’re constantly reminded of how little power we have. We thrash around desperately seeking to exert power which we do not possess. In addition, God has chosen to use a particular form of power to point to himself.
This form is called the Miracle.
Right from the start, he used miracles. He absolutely loves them. Parting seas, staffs into snakes, talking donkeys, rocks spouting water, you name it, it’s all happening in the Old Testament. I don’t think there’s a book in the Bible that doesn’t either contain them, or refer to them. They’re everywhere. And of course, the most important event in human history is well, let’s just call it The Miracle. AKA The Resurrection. Why this obsession?
Given our very secular society today, I’m tempted to say, ‘he wants to irritate the heck out of atheists!’ I don’t actually believe that, though. I think he’s making a point about himself and about us. Breaking the normative rules of nature is surely a sign, isn’t it? What is more powerful than the wind and the waves which threaten to kill us? Only the one who can tame them, surely? Miracles tell us that God is powerful and we are not. Simultaneously. The dominant theme of the Old Testament is God’s saving power and the need for the Hebrews to trust Him. He’s powerful. They are not.
We’re still learning that lesson.
Faith is the correct response to God’s power and our lack of it. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
Whenever I hear someone say ‘I feel out of control,’ I like to remind them (gently!) er, ‘you never were in control.’ Being human, by definition, entails ‘not being in control.’ It’s the state of not being able to control one’s environment, relationships, possessions and on and on. Faith is foundational to a fruitful, peaceful human life. No wonder we read, without faith it is impossible to please God.
One final thought.
While we may not be ‘in control,’ that doesn’t mean we don’t exercise power. Some of us exercise quite a lot of it. So, how should we use it? I think there’s a lot of wisdom in Philippians chapter 2.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Humble people don’t abuse power. They follow their Master, who gave himself up for us. And what happened to him after he showed us how to live? After he had healed the sick and cared for the outcast?
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.
We’re once again among the Great Paradoxes of God. The most powerful people on earth, it turns out, are those who humbly give their lives away. In the New Living Translation, Luke 9.24 says this, if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
If you seek to hold onto power over your life, you will lose it. If you love, if you give up your life, you will save it. He who humbled himself, who made himself a servant, is the one who is highly exalted.
The Power of God is seen most clearly in those who demonstrate the Love of God.
Power and Love, when conceived of correctly, are intimately related.
Praise Almighty God, whose love never ends, whose love never fails.
© Richard Collins 2014