Ginny and I are co-teaching a Sunday School class for Jr and Sr high. We worked with the students the first Sunday and listened to what they wanted to learn. They pushed us to teach them about sad stories, messed up stories, and the book of Revelation. When asked why messed up and sad stories we were told because they want to see the connection between the bible and life. I thought that was fantastic and couldn’t wait to start.
Last Sunday, we started with the book of Esther. We went through the first chapter and discussed things like eunuchs, kings, queens, and banquets. It was also a conversation about power. The 1st chapter of the book of Esther ends with these words,
“He sent letters to all parts of the empire, to each province in its own script and language, proclaiming that every man should be the ruler of his own home and should say whatever he pleases.”
Power is a funny thing. People want to possess it and use it for their benefit. People are often quick to point out the misuse of power when others are wielding it especially against them. However, I believe that we tend to misunderstand what real power is and how it should be utilized in the world.
The men who made this proclamation in chapter one of the book of Esther had the authority it seems to do what they did. They were using their power as a battering ram against a group of marginalized people, the women of the kingdom. The men were doing what people of privilege, prestige, and authority often do and that is make rules that benefitted themselves.
The bible is filled with stories of women being oppressed and other “sad and messed up” stories. Often, religious folks do their best to ignore these stories or pretend the stories don’t really say what we think they do. I like to think of it a little differently. I like to think of the bible as a collection of stories about messed up people and a God that loves them despite their “messed-upness”.
When I do that then I can begin to really look at the stories and push back against them and not have to think I am pushing back against God. Here is the reality that I see in the story of Esther and other similar stories in the bible, people hurt people when they have power.
I would like to say it is different in the world today but it isn’t. Those who have power will often do whatever is necessary to keep it. Powerful people will use physical pressure, economic pressure, and institutional pressure to maintain status quo. It is not okay but it is so commonplace that we often ignore it or don’t even notice it.
The church for very long time did all that it could to stop women from having a voice or taking real leadership positions. The church, which should always be on the forefront of radical change, saw itself broken into small pieces by the issue of slavery. Why?
People in power did not want to give up that power and used anything and everything to ensure that did not change. They even used God and the bible to justify their own prejudice, fear, and hate.
The world hasn’t changed too much and the church in many ways has changed even less. When I think of the Jesus that I see in the New Testament it is the God of shalom that I see. The bringer of and provider of abundant life. This is my benchmark. If what I am doing, seeing, or participating in is not providing abundant life and showing the way to abundant life than I need to make some changes.
Real power is not ever about politics, flags, or law to me. I believe it is about the Jesus who came to
“to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19).
So today I wrestle with how I am going to live out the power that I get from the Holy Spirit. Will I use it to benefit me or for the benefit of the world?
I choose God…I choose from the betterment of the world.
How about you?