Social upheavals in our nation over the last couple of years have shaken the foundations. Women fed up with being treated as sex objects started the “Me, too” movement. The “Black Lives Matter” movement called for justice for all regardless of skin color. The “Blue Lives Matter” movement sprang up in response to support law enforcement personnel.
These movements, and others, are about ‘empowering’ people, giving voice to those who were silent because of fear or abuse. As sides were chosen, divisions arose, and the conversations mostly devolved into shouting matches. Quickly the issues were politicized and ugly accusations were hurled across the divides that separated good people.
All of this comes from one key issue – the fact that power of any kind and in any place is an intoxicating thing. Those who hold it seldom give it away without a struggle. Those who gain it often become enthralled with keeping it. A rather pleasant person can become a tyrant in the workplace when handed authority. A person who has been ignored or marginalized can turn into a terror when they are given some minor place of decision-making. Abuse is frequently found where power and authority go unchecked. The founders of our country knew the nature of humanity well and attempted to design a system of government that included ‘checks and balances’ to prevent tyranny.
So what does this have to with being Christian?
Why are power and privilege the subjects of this CoffeeBreak?
Because God desires that His people learn how to exercise power and use privilege, not to feather their own nest, but to serve and bless others. Utopian, you say? No, truly His will for us! My Scripture reading took me into the words of Amos. The text is not pleasant, one thundering condemnation and threat of judgment following another. Besides the topic, the words address places and people far removed from me in time and culture. But, the Spirit used the inspired text to pierce my conscience, to cause me to ask myself hard questions.
Here is just one short excerpt. “You wicked people! You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the poor and oppressed. Righteousness and fair play are meaningless fictions to you. It is the Lord who created the stars, the Pleiades and Orion. It is he who turns darkness into morning and day into night. It is he who draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The Lord is his name! With blinding speed and power he destroys the strong, crushing all their defenses.
How you hate honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth! You trample the poor and steal what little they have through taxes and unfair rent. Therefore, you will never live in the beautiful stone houses you are building. You will never drink wine from the lush vineyards you are planting. For I know the vast number of your sins and rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. So those who are wise will keep quiet, for it is an evil time.” (Amos 5:7-13, NLT)
I hope you did not deflect those words by saying “I sure hope ___________ hears that!” Jesus reminds us that it is important to take care of the speck of sawdust in our own eye before we attempt to remove the post from the eye of another! We would all do well to prayerfully ask God for understanding, to allow the Holy Spirit to make us aware of how we are relating to others.
Are we a kind, loving, generous spouse
who makes our home a place of service?
Are we good parents who constantly
encourage our children with understanding?
At work do we serve well, work hard,
and refuse the ‘politics’ that corrupt?
In our church are we willing to set aside
our preferences to serve others,
loving to see them grow,
even if it means a lesser place for ourselves?
In our society are we people who
‘seek first to understand rather than to be understood?’
Do we refuse to use privilege to serve ourselves
because we know that we are ‘blessed to be a blessing?’
God’s people are empowered, but not in the usual sense. Our strength does not come from holding authority, or being a majority, having more muscle, creating a bigger organization, or owning a gun. Our power comes from the Holy Spirit, from a life of integrity, a radical commitment to love, and a deep faith in our God.
So many Christians know Jesus’ words about this but ignore them as impractical or even impossible. Yet, His wisdom is our life, the Truth that makes us who we are. He says, “If you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you.” (Luke 6:27-31, NLT) What a difference we could make in the world if we set aside building political organizations and coalitions and choose instead to live this radical lifestyle of peace.
Jesus promised that those who will choose faith and His way will be blessed, enjoying the peace and favor of God. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. … Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:5,7,9, NIV)
No one can consistently live like this without knowing that his life is held in the hands of God, that His justice ultimately will prevail. I pray to know that beyond my intellect, the truth of His love and care deeply embedded in my heart. Then, I can live in this way – “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, NIV) Pause to think about that for a moment!
Here is a short word from the Word. Take this phrase with you today. Say it to yourself over and over again and let the fact of His grace and love own you – heart, soul, and mind. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, NIV) That is empowering, the center of God’s grace the greatest place of privilege in the world.
Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am
(Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am
Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan
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