The life of power

Somewhere in Southwest Nepal

An Easter Reflection

I recently read an article on the ABC news site, titled A power has risen in Australian politics – and it’s not coming quietly. The author, Annabel Crabb, considers the shifting landscape in Australian politics that is undermining the traditional patriarchal power base. She states, “in this instance, there is opportunity for women to seek justice, to speak out, to demand restitution in this new environment, which suddenly gives a damn about them.” She concludes her article saying:

This new power comes from a different source and it doesn’t behave like the old kind

I must admit that it stirred something in me. Even though I lack the insight and experience to intelligently comment on the world of Canberra politics, I am deeply saddened by any misuse of power. I sincerely hope and pray that good outcomes will arise as the spotlight shines on those who have abused their power or not exercised it to deliver justice and protection from those who have been abused, neglected or harmed, regardless of where they work and live.

The Shifting Nature of Power

Picking up on Annabel Crabb’s final statement, major historic power shifts occur not just in terms of changes within systems (one head of state replacing another) but in terms of systemic changes (the rise of social media vs traditional media).

it was all to preserve their power from an outsider

Reading through the Gospels in preparing for this Easter, this is the most powerful thing (pardon the pun) I observed, especially in the Gospel of John. How many times do we see the religious leaders plotting, panicking and finally destroying Jesus. And, from their perspective it was all to preserve their power from an outsider who wasn’t born with the right pedigree:

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

John 11

It is astounding that because these men cared mostly about preserving their power they totally misunderstood the purpose and nature of Jesus’ kingdom. The irony is that in another 40 years the Romans would do the very thing they feared most and level their temple and their city to the ground. Jesus’ kingdom, however still goes on today and it is built on the paradox of the poor in spirit, not the powerful, inheriting the kingdom of heaven.

The Power of the Powerless

One of the things that draws me to loving Jesus is that he loves the unlovely, the outcast and the weak. How many times do we read about him turning the tables on the elite in his community and associating with “sinners”.

Somewhere in Southwest Nepal

I had never been more reminded of this than when I visited a remote village in Southwest Nepal, while working for Transform Aid International, a Christian aid and development charity.

I think she was probably the poorest person I had ever met

In this village, my party met a young Nepalese woman, who had three children. She had travelled several hours to attend a disabilities’ advocacy group to which she belonged. She nursed an infant during the meeting. We learned that she had an absent husband, who spent more time away from her than with her. I think she was probably the poorest person I had ever met.

She barely lifted her eyes as she spoke with us and explained the help she received from the disabilities group. She didn’t sound bitter. She didn’t complain. She said she was delighted to meet us. She gave us a greeting of Christian fellowship when she finished. I still remember the warmth that was shared, particularly between her and the women in our group as they gathered around her at the end of her talk to us.

Learning from the Powerless

Another view of the village I visited

This is a tricky thing to communicate, because poverty is a horrible thing. I hate some of the things I have seen happen to people without power or agency. (Surely, that is at the forefront of our public debate – providing a more equitable and just community, where all thrive.) Yet, there is something that is so dangerous about power. The poor in spirit have nothing to lose. But, the more you have, the greater the temptation to preserve it with a vice-like grip that hardens the soul.

When Jesus came into the world, his message was simple, “to seek and to save what was lost… to serve and give his life a ransom for many.” His life, death and resurrection give us the means to unshackle our souls from their vice-like grip of using our power to control what we have in this life. The irony of this is that our control will never be permanent or unchanged. Death, sickness, Covid-19 and many other factors have a way of overpowering the most powerful of us.

What are we holding this Easter that we need to loosen our grip on? May we have eyes to see the beauty of what Jesus offers the poor in spirit.

Some other images from Nepal

About a 5 hour drive from Kathmandu
One of the many craftsmen
From a high point in Bhaktapur

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