Friday, January 23, 2009

Dead Idea #5-- Power is Better than Love

Power does not demand love. Power demands submission and respect. An underlying current of the poisonous river that has worn away the inner strength of the Church of Jesus Christ is the exchange of love-- absolute and total trust, self-giving, self-sacrificing-- for power.
The world and its cultures know only power; the ability to coerce or persuade is the only power that there is. A worldly Church, a Church that is culturally captive, comes to believe the same thing.
From the top, the organization of the church becomes defensive (hang on to what you have), rather than expansive. Leaders of this church demand to be respected and spend their lives acquiring and defending their respectability. Power expresses itself differently at the grassroots level of the church, but no less poisonously. The average pewsitter demands to be seen as good, and spend their lives acquiring and defending their goodness.
This church will argue to the death over doctrine; it will excoriate the surrounding culture for its bad acts, and evil proclivities. But it will not engage the sinner-- it will spend money, but no blood to save the lost. James says that faith without deeds is dead; this church is dead, even when it is filled to the brimming with treasure and talent.
Love does not coerce, Love invites. Love is easily mocked, easily ignored, easily rejected. Love suffers rather than inflicting suffering; Love embraces rejection, rather than rejecting. Love is present not when everyone says it is, but when everyone LOVES. Love is messy and chaotic, and costly. Love serves. The pastor who serves in love is easy to hurt, mock, and demean. The people who serve in love are easy to question about their motives, and easy to dismiss for their "ignorance" and weakness.
But the Love of Jesus Christ that compels the believer transforms the blood and toil of their self-emptying sacrifice into Christ's own blood, which washes away the sins of the whole world. I have watched Christ's love wash away a lifetime of disrespect and prejudice, of death-dealing self-hatred and bitterness. When I get up in the pulpit of Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, I look out on young and old, black, white, hispanic, rich, poor, sober and recently sober-- all who are seeking to love Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, and mind, and to love their neighbor as themselves. That may not be enough power for a journalist to believe that love can change the world-- but it was enough to change us. Who truly knows how far that Love can go in changing the world until we, the Church, take all our worldly power and possessions, and try?

1 comment:

  1. Clay,Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church is unlike any congregation I have ever been part of. That is so sad because what a blessing it would be if people of all colors and backgrounds could know and love Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, and mind and love their neighbor as themselves - as those of OCPC do. If each one of us takes this Love and spreads it everywhere we go as we leave the church building, it will grow just as the tiny grain of yeast grows the sticky dough into a large loaf of bread.
    "And now these three remain:faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
    1 Corinthians 13:13

    In Christ's Love,