Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Power

Humans are enthralled with power. We desire to have control over our own lives and many of us want control over others. Christianity turns power upside down. "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." "If you wish to be my disciples, take up your cross and follow after me." "When I am weak, then I am strong." We know that the search for power is ultimately a search for that which we cannot control and will never truly attain.

Yet, we still crave it.
We still grasp for it.

This is where humility guides the Christian, little do I know about the subject. Humility is the foundation for all other virtues and ultimately our own happiness. In finding that we are not in control, we release the desire for power and allow God to control things. We understand that we are human, God is God, and we will never be like Him. Humility gives us the perspective we all need to be truly human.

But power draws us in and so we label others as more powerful than us and we seek it out. We want to associate with others with power. We are proud that the US is a powerful country. We are boastful of the power of friends and family. We even seek it in delicate ways of trying to control the most fundamental of all things - the creation of life itself - by contracepting ourselves into a position of seeming power.

It is all for naught. Christ taught that the meek, humble, poor and suffering were blessed and so they are.

So, what are we to make of the lists of power that society likes to read, such as Newsweek's top 50 most powerful people in the world? Note: I think lists such as these don't mean much - it is a subjective process that is flawed (Bloomberg at 36? Not any NY bias there, huh? They also put Jeff Bezos on the list and lost me), but it tells us something about our society's preoccupation with power.

We find Pope Benedict XVI on the list at #37. It really matters not where he is, because while he certainly has authority, it is unlike any other power the others on the list have (the next closest being the Dalai Lama). The Pope does not reside over doctrine as a president does over policy decisions. The Pope doesn't search for growth in the economy as the big CEOs of companies do. Rather, the Pope's authority is as a shepherd who is pastoring the flock for Christ. He still answers to a much higher power.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep. - John 21: 15-17

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