Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him ~John 13:3-5
What does it mean to be powerful? Is Bill Gates powerful? What about Mother Theresa? How you define that says a lot about the way you live your life. Often times, power is expressed through significance. Significant people are very powerful though it does not always look the same. Sometimes it is fame while other times it is fortune. Then, there are other times when it is seen through great sacrifice and love for the World. I would consider Bill Gates and Mother Theresa powerful but for different reasons. Bill Gates’ power is seen through his intelligence and subsequent financial success. Mother Theresa, a picture of poverty, was powerful through her care and service to those around her.
Jesus was a man of great power, but how would we qualify that? He did not have a lot of money, but he was famous (at least towards the end of his life.) He was a King, but it was not of this world. In this world, he was a carpenter. Isaiah 53 talks about how there was nothing impressive about him, but he was powerful. He healed blinded eyes and raised people from the dead. Surely, that would be a good qualifier for being a powerful man, right?
Thinking about power reminds me of this new show on the Oxygen Channel called “Preachers of L.A.” It delves deep into the lives of some prominent pastors in Los Angeles. The show has caused quite a stir for many reasons; one being that this show has made a statement about what it means to be powerful . . . or significant. These men have million dollar houses and a fleet of the fanciest cars. They have a lot of material wealth and they are not ashamed to flaunt it because they make it clear that it was given to them by God. So, to show off your wealth inadvertently means to show off your God. The purpose of this post is not to critique the theology of these preachers, but I do wonder how this show defines power for a Christian.
I still remember when Pope Francis was first inaugurated. His definition of power caught the attention of many reporters. There were multiples articles written about him because he showed himself to be “a man of the people.” People were impressed that he would ride in the commoner’s bus or greet people in the town square. He was real down to Earth, but why is that so shocking to people? Because people often equate power with being unapproachable, and who is more powerful than Pope Francis (at least in terms of religious figures)? The more significant you are, the farther removed you are from those who are not.
Jesus lived by a different philosophy . . .
In John 13, when he knew that the Father had given him all power, he did not respond with showing off or distancing himself from the “commoners.” He bowed at their feet, culturally debased himself, to serve and to set an example. The most powerful man to ever walk the Earth was the most approachable. Little children would cling to him. The socially unacceptable would gather around him. Then, I began to wonder if Jesus would fit in with the Preachers of L.A. Would he boost ratings? He did not mind controversy, but he did not have any nice suits or nice cars. In fact, he would tell people that he was homeless (Luke 9:58). He may fit in or he may not, but it is important to have perspective if you watch this show. It is a caricature of Christianity. Very few pastors live so lavishly and many prefer not to for various reasons. Now, I do not think having money, fame, and material wealth is wrong (1 Timothy 6:17), but if these things make it hard for you to bow and serve another, then there is an issue that should be addressed. When we realize the power that God has given us (whatever it might look like), let’s remember to use it for the glory of God and for the good of others.