I find much of my spare mental space going to reflecting on power and the nature of how it is held these days. We seem to be living in a world full of leaders who behave like bullies. The so-called “strong man” approach has meant journalists who speak out are murdered, women who testify regarding their assault are ridiculed, and the common person who asks questions on how they are going to make a living in a globalized world is ignored. If children behaved this way to each other, we would be taking immediate steps to correct that behaviour!
Jesus lived in a time where power was welded harshly too and it is clear from the Gospels that he was prepared to face that power. But he did it in such an unusual way: not with hatred, not with frustration (though I imagine he felt it!), and not with mockery, but somehow with a kind of fierce conviction and loving demeanour. Jesus kept the lines of communication and relationship open, yet he did not shift or bend to the powerholder’s arguments or way of life. He did not conform to how things “had to be” but held out hope and conviction that God had a better dream for humanity than the one he was living through.
In my 20s I went to a few Buddhist-inspired meditation retreats, and one of the group leaders placed up photos of unpopular world leaders. They then asked us to direct our most loving thoughts towards them. It nearly turned into a full scale fleeing from the room but quickly it sunk in just how challenging it was to place love alongside hate and discord. So how might we resist the improper use of power, while still practicing Jesus’s unconditional love? There is a balance here of speaking truth to power and still not descending into hatred, ridicule or despair, and of living out passionately a belief that love is able to transform the world. What a remarkable challenge has been put before us!