I spent this last weekend at Lincoln Cathedral with my choir and while I was there I was desperately trying to work out what my next post would be in this series of meditations on the 7 different types of play and Lent. Luckily the reading for the morning communion was Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness. Of course one of his key temptations was to take ultimate worldly power. A temptation he rejected.
Power is nice. I like being a manager. I enjoy being able to direct the strategy of clients and of the department, and I enjoy being at the heart of big decisions. Recently I have been thinking about what it would mean not to have that power and influence any more. Could I retain it? How? What would I mean without that power and influence?
I have also come up against some really talented people, younger than myself, with great ideas and enthusiasm who don’t suffer fools gladly and who certainly don’t kowtow to anyone, and I have realised something. I must have been a pain to manage when I was younger, because I wouldn’t give anyone respect simply because of the name plate on their door or their status in the company. Respect and hence power had to be earned from me. Iit was about how my managers behaved, how they responded to me and others – who they were, not what they were. Come think of it, maybe I’m still a pain to manage…but that’s not the point of this post.
The point is that power occurs in 2 ways – you take it or you are given it.
Looking back at the story of Jesus’s temptations it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that he rejected power. He didn’t. He rejected taking power by force. Instead he embraced the idea of power being given to him by his followers or by God. He always throws the question back at his questioners. “Who do you say I am?” he asks Peter, and to Pilate he says, “You say it.” when he asks him if he is the King of the Jews. And he attributes the healings he performs and the miracles to the faith of the sufferer, he doesn’t claim it for himself.
This kind of power, that given to him by his followers, was so dynamic and so frightening to the authorities that he was killed for it. Whereas if he had mobilised his followers and claimed power over them he might have sparked a bloddy revolution. Sobering thought.
Some things to think about:-
The play of power is insidious. It has you fretting or bullying or demanding or gossping before you even realise it. And we all have power – power over friends, children, workmates, politicians. It can be real or virtual but it’s enjoyable. The question is how do we use it or do we let it use us? Do we earn it or do we take it? And how does that change our relationship with God?