Is It An Empowerment Problem?Fr. Barnabas Powell
What confuses me most about today’s societal chaos is the whole idea of “empowerment.” It strikes me as so very misplaced and wrongheaded.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the motivation of wanting to correct a feeling of powerlessness. I’m just convinced that the current method being championed by those who keep on insisting they are defenders of the powerless is simply wrong. their methods don’t, in the end, address powerlessness or injustice. They just change the names of the victims of power.
This is especially true in light of the most universe-changing exercise of power ever; the Person of Jesus Christ. His display of power is to become powerless, to “empty” Himself of His power and use His embraced weakness as the truly powerful weapon against the power of death! I guess that’s why I am so averse to the notion of “power” as either a religious affirmation or a political goal.
It is never about power or strength. It’s always about redemption and love.
Look at our lesson today in Romans 8:28-39:
Brethren, we know that everything works for good with those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage is so very familiar to me. Growing up, I heard countless sermons about this passage and they always seemed to focus on Jesus having the “power” to make me a success no matter my circumstances.
And yet, that isn’t St. Paul’s focus at all. St. Paul wants us to focus on reality, and reality is that God has always intended to make you like Himself THROUGH relationship, and NOTHING can stop that reality IF you wake up to it.
And how is this likeness achieved? Not through God overpowering you or forcing you, but through encouraging you to wake up to the reality that He became weak FOR YOU! God accomplishes His eternal purpose for you by entering into this broken world and not condemning it but redeeming it.
Notice the list of things St. Paul lists that CANNOT separate us from His love. Tribulation? No. Distress? No. Persecution? No. Famine? No. Nakedness? No. Peril? No. Sword? No. Death? No. Life? No. Angels? No. Principalities? No. Things Present? No. Things to Come? No. Powers? No. Height? No. Depth? No. Anything Else? No. In each of these, it would be easy to feel we are powerless against such foes. But Paul reminds us that Jesus has entered as weak SO THAT He might destroy the false powers with His weakness, not His strength. In fact, His voluntary weakness is actually REAL POWER! God exercises His Great Power to make Himself weak and small FOR US so that we would not be weak and small!
So today, are you feeling powerless? Know this, in this very place where you feel most vulnerable, God is there ready to transform your weakness into peace. He has redeemed this broken place by His love and He is there to make impotent every enemy that you have! It isn’t about empowerment. It’s about being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I don’t lack power in my life. I lack the humility to embrace Your power instead of fighting for my own way. That’s what makes my so-called power actual weakness and selfish. Forgive me. Help me embrace the truth that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” And grant me to trust Your power and love instead of trying to be who I’m meant to be without You! Amen.