For the power of God Himself, reflected in the power which he gives to man, is the power of Jesus Christ, and therefore the power of the Lamb as well as the Lion, of the cross as well as the resurrection, humiliation as well as exaltation, of death as well as life… For some it will almost always be only the one, for others only the other, but usually it will be both for all of us in rapid alternation. In each case however, it will be true capacity, the good gift of God, ascribed as needed in his service. God demands one service to be rendered in the light, another which can only be performed only in shadow. That is why He distributes this varied ability according to His good-pleasure.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics iii part 4 §55
Earlier this week I wrote on my experience listening to a conservative Evangelical group discussing their involvement with the legislation of this country, specifically as they outlined how they were planning to change the laws of the land in order to protect what they thought is sacred. I ended the post asking us to imagine a different way of using power.
Today Christina Baxter was lecturing on power and the Church, outlining several ways power has been handled in and by the Church. In summary she directed us to Barth’s words.
I really loved how Barth seated the discussion in God’s ultimate display of power–and indeed his whole being–Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ the Man of Power
Reflecting on Jesus, perhaps we can see clearly the conferred power of God in human being. That is to say, Christ is the demonstration of Godly power, the same power which is given to the Church.
This was the power of Crucifixion and Resurrection, both of which gave glory to God and accomplished his goals. One act was a dark deed, a murder. The other, a triumph of light. In one instance he was the Victim, in the other the Victor. This is the power of God given to the Church.
Power and Glory
This power was exercised by Jesus for the glory of his Father, and the same stipulation applies to us. Power is given in grace for God’s glory.
And that grace is always costly.
If that is the case, how can we imagine a response to the three issues raised by the conservative Evangelicals (Decay of marriage, abortion and sanctity of life, Christians in the public realm)?
Have we been given the right to vote?
Have we the ability to gather support and run campaigns?
Can we convince others of some new idea?
Could we keep silent, and with our passivity, testify to a different reality?
What if we modelled our values before we asked others to join us?
Does all of this glorify God?
Testifying to Crucified Power
I do not think, as perhaps I did in the past, there is one simple answer to how Christians are to exercise power in the world. It is perhaps a sacred trust.
My response, at least for now, is to remember that I have no rights in this land and have a greater inheritance elsewhere. For this reason I can choose patience and remember the cross. That was power just as much as the resurrection. It is the power to endure in tough times, and to press on for the future joy.
Either way, it is grace, being for each of us exactly that which God causes to be allotted to us. Hence the commanded will for power can always be the confident will for the kind of power which is now assigned to us. It will not be a rigid but a fluid or flexible will, not merely in the direction we normally look when we speak of will for power, but also in the other direction in which strength is made perfect in weakness.