3-2-17 - Power

Who has more real power – the emperor or the counselor? The president or the chief of staff? The CEO or the COO? In the third temptation, the devil is willing to put Jesus in charge of all the kingdoms of the world – as long as he acknowledges him as the real power behind the scenes:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him."

This always struck me as a really dumb temptation – didn’t the devil know that Jesus had no interest in temporal power? Of course, this Jesus, in whom more divine power resided than the world had ever seen in a human being, was even less interested than most in world domination. He cared more about demonstrating the power to be gained in giving away your prerogatives.

There are at least three ways to wield power – there’s “power over,” when we have dominion over others, and we use it to control them. There’s “power under,” the indirect, passive aggressive power seized by those who use their sacrifices and victimhood to try to control others. And then there’s the kind of power Jesus wielded, what I would call “power with.” This comes from a true sense of who we are, joined with an awareness of the power of God alive in us, so that we use power in a way that empowers others.

As we read the Gospels, we see Jesus constantly empowering people who had been robbed of power, whether by the Romans, by the religious authorities, by illness or prejudice or poverty. This was ultimately what made him such a threat to those who thought they had power over him. It’s what makes him such a threat to the Evil One – because Jesus is still alive, still in the business of empowering us. And empowered, we can resist evil.

When you look at your life, what kind of power is most often at play in your relationships, in your work, in your health? Are there things and people you’d like to dominate?
Are there things and people whom you feel have power over you? Neither is a good position to be in.
Are there ways you employ “power with” in a way that allows you to be true to yourself, true to God, and empowers others to be the same?

This is part of what it means to participate in God’s mission to bring wholeness to the world – when everyone exercises “power with,” the power of God overwhelms the power of evil. Poor devil really never had a chance.

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