In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
- Genesis 1:1
What do you think of when I say the word ‘power’? Perhaps the phrase, “abuse of power”? Perhaps the phrase, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
It is hardly possible to think of any institution which has not been shown to misuse power. Police, NHS, media, the Royal Family, charities, businesses, politics... and of course, the Church. The whole world seems full of abuse of power… and when not misused it is often not used at all. You had the power to help, but you didn’t. We are deeply suspicious of power.
Yet the first line of the Apostles’ Creed speaks of the power of God: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. The image we have of God is a big bossy guy in the sky, laying down the rules, and punishing those who do wrong. This is actually rooted in a view of power... we see it as the ability to force, compel and coerce.
But that's not how God exercises power. He is both a Father and a Creator. His first expression of power was to bring the world into being, giving it freedom to grow and develop, and calling humans to rule as his stewards. It is only in our rebellion that God's power begins to seem coercive.
In fact, we see that God's power sometimes doesn't look like power at all. We see most clearly in Jesus. He is God who self-empties, who becomes human, and his power is used not for the sake of his own mastery but for the flourishing and liberation of others. Jesus says, “because I lay down my life in order to take it up again”, and “have the power to lay it down, and... the power to take it up” (John 10.17-18). What we think of as weakness and vulnerability is power. 1 Corinthians 1:18: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The invitation is that we allow the almighty Father to redefine our ideas, and our use, of power.