Study Guide: Power vs. Presence

Sunday October 7, 2007 | Sandra Unger

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. When you have a conversation with someone who is obviously important according to social standards, how do you feel?
  2. How are the disciples trying to attain power in this passage?
  3. How does the pursuit of power stand in the way of building relationships that lead to community?
  4. Can you give an example from your life of how power hindered a good relationship?
  5. How is God calling you to change how you use power in your relationships?