The Powerless God
Are we following after the way of God or the way of the powers?
I have been reading a great little book by Henri Nouwen called Finding My Way Home. It’s a short collection of essays. The first essay is on the powerlessness of God. It has challenged my thinking about how God works and how we as God’s people ought to work in the world.
Have you ever considered the reality that the God of the universe, the Creator, the ultimate reality, the prime mover, the Power, chose to enter the human story by becoming fully human? Unlike the gods of the myths who held onto their great powers as they incarnated, this God of the Bible entered the story by being born of a woman. He came into the world the ordinary way, as they say.
He wasn’t born into a wealthy family. He was born into a peasant home. He didn’t live a life of luxury. He lived a life of toil and work. God lived in obscurity in the neighborhood.
Yet, it was this God who would confront and subvert the powers of the world. He would eventually defeat them and overcome them. The great victory of God over the powers didn’t happen with military might but by one who would die.
The powers tried to eliminate him early in his life when he was most vulnerable. The order went out to kill the boys of the kingdom who were born about the time he was (Matthew 2:16). Why? Because the newborn “king of the Jews,” was to be more than an ordinary king. He was to overthrow the powers and bring the people out of exile.
The powerless God fled into an exile of his own and then returned. He grew up into manhood. There was nothing special about him. He was just a guy, Joseph’s son.
All of a sudden there was a baptism, a test, and water was made into wine. The blind received sight. The lame walked. Good news was proclaimed to the poor.
None of it done from a position of power. All of it from one who was powerless in this world.
He was so utterly powerless that he was eventually arrested and murdered on a Roman cross.
That should have been the end of the story.
But God, in his utter powerlessness won the ultimate victory because it was in death that ultimate power was revealed.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. — St Paul
There is nothing more powerless than death. Yet, in the powerlessness of God this death was what defeated the powers and ended the exile.
When we consider the reality of how God chose powerlessness and sacrifice to gain victory over the powers it begs the question, “How do we engage this world as those live by his name?”
I often see people talking about the need for the Church to have a “seat at the table.” They mean that we need Christians in positions to influence power. In other words, we need to be powerful to make change in this world.
What if we followed the way of our Lord? What would it look like to choose the way of powerlessness?
Can you imagine a world where the Christians set aside a clamor and desire for power and instead chose service and sacrifice?
American Christianity is by and large a clamor for power. The successful congregation is measured in the size of the building and the number of attendees on a Sunday. Business metrics and congregation growth metrics are one in the same. The leadership books of the church are the same as the leadership books of the corporation.
Could it be that we as the Church have missed an important and critical calling? The calling to powerlessness.
How do our Sunday experiences jive with the Master who told people to keep him a secret? The Master who challenges crowds for wanting him just for what he could give them? The Master, who was so challenging, that he had to ask his closest friends, “Will you leave me too?”
We need to take another look and ask, “Are we following the way of power or the way of powerlessness?”