Paradox of Power: Letting Go

” Great spirituality is about letting go. Instead we have made it about taking in, attaining, performing, winning and succeeding. Spirituality has become a show we perform for ourselves, which God does not need. True spirituality mirrors the paradox of life itself. It trains us in both detachment and attachment, detachment from the passing, so we can attach to the substantial.”

Richard Rohr

To dominate, is to acquire and maintain. To grow in power, in this world, is to gain things like prestige, money, and success. When we think of power, we often think of a domination in its coercive forms. The powerful leaders in history haven’t all be so nice, some downright evil. Accruing resources for personal influence, rule and dominance. For a little while. What sheer chaos and suffering has come from the whims of those in power throughout history!

I wonder, does God dominate? If there is a God, and this God is the Creator of the universe, he must have some immense, cosmic, other-worldly form of power! What defines this power of this Creator? We are witnesses to this power through revealed material creation. We can touch a tender flower, gaze upon the gentle sunset, or listen to the crashing waves. This Creator has used power in a creative way, providing context for life and human flourishing. Power, for God, doesn’t seem to be an expression of might, as much as something that flows from His essence. He created a good place, a life-sustaining place. At minimum, we have to say Creator is creative, and uses power for human flourishing.

The world, as we know it, according to Christianity, is not as it should be. A fallen humanity uses its own forms of god-like power to seek its own justifiable end. We want, we take. If we can’t have, we design our lives in such a way to attain, or die trying. We wield resources to our own self-seeking ends, and if we make progress on our vertical journey, we often end up oppress others in our wake en route. We humans enjoy power, we want more of it. After all, who wants to be without power and the mobility if provides us? Who would sign up to be helpless, immobile, without options and completely at the mercy of another?

We’re going somewhere. Think with me!

What is the opposite of power? Is it weakness? I’m not so sure. Power, when viewed through the lens of Christ, is the capacity to use one’s resources for the ultimate value; love. God uses His creative, limitless power to showcase His nature. In Jesus, we see that God is not nervous about losing power, or becoming weak in the world’s economy. In Jesus we see God empty Himself of divine expression into material, measurable form. He takes on flesh, becomes a first-century Jewish baby, then boy, and grows into an adult male. At the peak of his natural human strength, God, in Jesus, empties Himself once again, this time through the most powerful act humanity has witnessed. If God hasn’t clearly shown humanity that power is love in the act of the incarnation itself, He triumphs in the display of the eternal Son hanging on a Roman torture instrument.

God uses power to suffer, divest of His resources, to save us from ourselves.

This is power in weakness. Weakness at least in the world’s understanding. Suffering, divesting love, pouring out for the other; this is God’s demonstration of the highest use of power. In Jesus, God is revealing His perfect nature, clearly, undeniably. We want to look away, we would rather have God thunder like Zeus, dominating the cosmos with an iron fist. We take comfort in our forms of power, we identify with them, but they are broken and beneath God. We want to look away from this power, for us it’s foolish, weak, and invites us to look deeply into our own clinging, our own fear of letting go. This life is all we have, if God risks, if God is ultimately relational, if God is Jesus and Jesus is God, it’s the dominant Zeus that must die.

I’ve often thought, so many believers would rather an omnipotent, but evil God ruling the universe than a suffering but morally beautiful Deity. What does this say about us as humans? What does it say about our fear of the realities of the incarnation and the Cross? We must let God define Himself, and live into the consequences of this reality – there is no other reality if Christ indeed was God, and Christ indeed is alive still.

Those who cling to this world and its coercive structures of power and unending hierarchies of success, have exchanged God’s power for something beneath us, a broken reflection of our image. It’s beneath us, because it’s a reflection of Satan’s realm, and not be in the DNA of a follower of Jesus. We humans rattle around on this earth longing for more, grabbing on, clinging to such illusions. We’ve failed to see Christ, we keep looking down and missing the Son lifted up. Think of the invitation Creator has offered us? To participate in His power, to enjoy eternal life, to receive His gift of love, to know His resurrection power!

When the world and it’s illusions infiltrate our Christian spaces, we’re in trouble. The world won’t encourage us to let go, or to truly love. It redefines power, love and success. It will conspire to woo us into it’s dead-end pursuits, it’s passions for security, safety, and self-reliance. Love is the most violent, selfless expression we can experience, and the most spiritual as Rohr so aptly quotes above.

To lay down our lives and participate in God’s power, is to use what ever resources and influence we have to share in God’s restoration project. Power is a gift, a gift for human flourishing, a gift for bringing the loving reign of Jesus to earth as it is in heaven. The power of God is the Gospel, and the Gospel is Jesus the person, His life and all that it has revealed for humanity. Power, in the life of the believer, is to let go of preservation mentality, of visions of self aggrandizing, and to empty ourselves like Christ for the world. True power is not dominance, nor oppression. True love is liberation from the systems of this world. It’s seeing Jesus before Pilate, the Creator of this world subjecting Himself to our ignorance and scorn. True power is restrained judgment, believing and trusting God’s goodness. Power is displayed on the Cross when Creator God let’s go of needing to be understood, popular or safe. Use what gifts, talents and capacities you have to serve the other and become like Christ, participating in God’s power.

This world is broken, but it’s not without hope. As long as there are believers who take up their cross, identify themselves with the loving way of the Father, there is salt, light, and hope for our generation. Love cuts through the noise, the garbage narratives, and propaganda of our age. Our battle is not to win arguments, but to to love our neighbor. As long as we cling for affirmation, and worldly forms of power, we will continue wandering this planet in search of meaning and never experiencing the power of love’s transformation. We’ll never be the church in our generation unless we have God’s highest, most flourishing kind of power. This power is received dear friend, by letting go, the Apostle Paul likens it to dying. It’s a paradox of power, that in death, we find life. Dominance brings destruction, love wins.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:25 NIV
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