On the morning after the Election night before, Spurgeons Chief Executive Ross Hendry reflects on where true power lies.
By the time you read this it’s likely we’ll know the result of the General Election and who will be in power for the next five years. At least that’s how most of us perceive things to work. And yet, the Christmas story should inspire Christians to challenge this perception of power with a radical new vision of the power given to each one of us.
Power is the ability to do things, change things or influence things. Most of us look up and compare ourselves to those who have more. As a result we see ourselves as a small cog in a big machine, powerless to affect significant change.
That those in authority, with status, wealth and resources are the ones with power is a convenient lie we tell ourselves. It helps most of us abdicate responsibility to those ‘in power’, and means we can then complain when leaders disappoint, criticise when authorities fail to meet our expectations.
Weak can be strong
Please don’t misunderstand me. It is right that leaders are held to account. It is also right that those in authority have a great deal of power to affect change over nations.
Yet the bible teaches us that the weak can be made strong, the least can become the greatest. That is both a future hope, and a present reality.
Just think of who has the greatest power over your life? Who has had the greatest influence on what you do now, and who has the most impact on what you are dong today? It may be your boss, but it may also be your son or daughter who, in the world’s eyes, have very little power as we tend to think of it.
For me, much of my working life has been motivated by a seven-year-old boy who had been permanently excluded from six schools in five years. He told me his story and concluded by saying that, “I didn’t like the boy I was. I was the trouble, and so I needed to change.” So much wisdom and honest self-reflection wrapped up in a plea for help. Years later it still motivates so much of what I hope to achieve through Spurgeons’ work with other vulnerable children today.
In the world’s eyes that little boy was powerless – or at least he only had the power to disrupt and destroy – but he continues to make a difference in what I do and how I work. Similarly, in his most recent book, Andy Crouch shares the story of his profoundly disabled nephew, who, through his life, has changed his whole family.
And, of course, the most amazing story of power is the incarnation. “The baby in the womb was the maker of the moon,” sings Andrew Peterson, expressing the truth of the great hymn in Philippians chapter 2.
Giving up his status Jesus never once relinquishes his power and authority as saviour and redeemer. The incarnation is scandalous. It demonstrates a heavenly perspective on power that has nothing to do with worldly status. We worship a God who lowered himself to wash his disciples’ feet and die on a cross, mocked for not leaping down and saving himself. Yet he was powerful enough in that moment to save all of us from sin, to heel our brokenness, and redeem his creation.
This is the amazing Christmas story and the power God. The God who created all things. The same God who redeems and saves is also the One who made us in his image. He created us to be his stewards over creation. Fearfully and wonderfully made with gifts and talents.
Even more wonderfully we have the power of God in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through his fruit we have the power to be transformative.
But do we recognise these truths in ourselves and in others? Or do we buy the world’s lie and become less that we were created to be?
This Christmas, Christians must be the ones to proclaim what God has done for us, and be those who show what God has given us power to do.
In the work Spurgeons does every day I have found that it is the smallest things that are often the most powerful. The warm smile and respect given to the family visiting dad in prison. The cup of tea and encouraging chat with the mum who is struggling to cope.
Remembering someone’s name as they come back to the mid-week church play group, or the follow-up call to check a young carer has got home safely. We may not think these are acts of power but they are – they change things.
The power to partner work of charities like Spurgeons through giving is another type of power that most of us have. Or the amazing power we have to pray for others is something we can all do. The power to love our neighbour can be realised in so many ways, if we only ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and give us courage to act.
Power is not a commodity monopolised by the rich or by authorities. It is not something we need to grasp; neither is it something we need to feel hopeless about. Politicians and public will do well to remember this. Christmas reminds us that, “the baby in the womb was the maker of the moon.” It is the story of a saviour who came to use his power to heal and repair, showing us how we too are part of his story.