“But to all who received him, who believed in Jesus’ name, he gave power to become children of God.”
— John 1:12 (NRSV)
Rwanda was a bad place to be for the Tutsi people in 1994. Hutu extremists, who were responding to fears surrounding a Tutsi power struggle, massacred hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, as well as Hutu peacemakers, over a 100-day period. This was one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. It destroyed families and the ongoing social impacts within the Rwandan cultural landscape continue to be felt as countless orphaned children learned to grow up as a lost people with a shattered past.
Such a story is loaded with oppression—the absolute opposite of the type of power many of us enjoy: the power of hope regarding one’s destiny. We can but imagine what it would be like to lose our mother and father, as well as our siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and neighbours. Life as we would have known it would have changed in the blink of an eye. Pain and suffering would enter our lives and some of the scars would never truly leave.
Imagine living with that sense of a lack; a powerless reality.
The Hutu marauders seemed to have the power to allow life or take it. But such a power remains only, in the right sense, with God. Still, they took life and they changed lives, drastically for the worse.
This is part of our history; the history of humanity; the story of our brokenness.
Because there are people who do not accept that Christ came into the world to save it, people who cherish only what power they can exact over others, there is brokenness everywhere; to the making of atrocities like genocide.
But even those of us who accept Jesus are broken; yet, because we belong to God’s family we are issued power: authority, indeed. (The Greek word for “power” in John 1:12 is actually closer translated as “authority.”)
The Use of This Power (Authority) For Good
The power that God gives is a trust given, because we, without reservation, trust God.
This Power is so radically different from the power that the Hutus wielded. They oppressed an innocent people. They committed acts that were gruesome beyond our worst imaginations.
As bad as these acts were, the power of God that works for good is just as radical, but in the opposite direction.
Just as Rwanda was transformed for the very worst, we, those with the power and the authority of God, to love, are transformed for the very best. We are transformed to serve and to delight when others feel they belong.
Instead of bringing death, we bring life by our interactions, in Jesus’ name. This is an awe-inspiring opportunity; every day to love without bounds of fear.
Because of their faith, believers are trusted by God with Power—a Spiritual Power—or Authority, in Jesus’ name. Those who are deemed trustworthy by their faith are found worthy of trust. God believes in the believer; not to be perfect, but to follow Jesus enough to learn and to grow and to love, always.
Following Jesus is belonging to Power.
As a final side note, wherever we’re given power (authority) we’re also charged with responsibility and accountability. Those with Power have awesome responsibility.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.