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Power vs. Presence

• Sandra Unger

Greatness in the Kingdom of God is never measured like it is in our Western culture. Instead of seeking power and control the way our society does, Jesus taught that “…whoever is least among you all is the greatest.” This has tremendous ramifications for how we minister to the people around us, and tells us a great deal about how God wants us to help spread his Kingdom.

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These verses capture a three-act play about power. The disciples were assuming that the Jewish Messiah would come and establish God’s ways through a display of power. The disciples did not understand that power is a substitute for love. It allows us to control people instead of loving people.

To say this and to live this confronts the way our culture works. Society tells us that we are to assume that power is good. To know the right people, to develop the right resume, to attain places of position, is the way the world works.

We often forget to live a radical life that looks different from the surrounding culture. By default, we opt for attaining more power when given the opportunity. Or we relate to people by assessing if we have more power than they do. This is exactly what the disciples were doing. They, like us, wanted to know who is better.

Power, and the pursuit of it, displaces relationships. Community and power cannot co-exist. Power creates safety and control so that people can attain a level of importance over others.

But in Luke 4, Jesus proclaims that Jesus came to relate to the powerless, the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed. He stood against the values of society and he called the disciples to follow him in what he stood against. And he calls us too to follow him in giving up the pursuit of power.

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 9:43-50

    And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

    While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered over to human hands.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

    An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest."

    “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."

    “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

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