4 horsemen of the apocalypse: power

Continuing the series on the 4 horseman of the apocalypse, our second horseman according to Revelations 6 is War. I am tempted to say that War in the US looks like leadership, but leadership is really just the fruit of what we believe about power. War is the destroyer, the fighter of fights, the unyielding hammer.

#2, War: Power

As Christians bent on success, we have largely ignored the consequence of our assumptions about leadership; what it is, how it works. You see this at Easter. We portray the cross as the greatest suffering moment in the world, not one among many. Jesus came to be one of us, not out-macho us. We’ve done an odd thing turning his taciturn manner into the latest Schwarzeneggarian muscle fest, because of what we believe about power. We don’t actually think it comes in weakness at all, and I think Good Friday may be a more appropriate holiday for us. As it turns out, the kind of power Jesus exercised was not one of military force, but love. This seems to go largely unnoticed in church.

Our popular theology needs the forceful exercise of power, the King, the Pope, and the CEO. We don’t understand how the power of love works, and do not trust the Holy Spirit could be more “effective” than leadership that looks like AIG, Microsoft, or our political parties, so church leadership resembles Wall Streets’s convictions more than Christ’s. The church is chasing the same carrot the S&p 500 is: market capitalization. In doing so, we are unaware we’ve accepted Caesar’s rule.

We don’t believe in power, we believe in divinly sanctioned power, but we assume they work the same way. We read Revelations and salivate over the coming celestial war and are don’t see the weak community that avoided fighting battles expecting God to deliver them in other ways. No wonder reconciliation is so rare. Case in point, Mark Driscol. Check out this New York Times Article. Seriously. Makes Ricky Bobby seem orthodox..

More immediately, Christian leaders are always seeking “influence,” because we are so committed to leadership. Let me say from the outset that I am not anti-leadership. Good leaders are a real blessing, but they are a blessing because they lead differently. They don’t fall into the trap of seeking influence for influence’s sake more than love for others. The proof of our mistaken understanding is in the fruit of the “leadership life” we ignore – the burn out, adultery, the scandals, the fractured families, the high turnover rates, etc. Is there any larger neon sign something is wrong than pastor’s children? We have to ask , “if pastors are unable to love the minority voice in their own families, how can we believe we are trying to love the downtrodden in the world around us?”

Our preoccupation with effective results makes us short sighted. It assumes a kind of control over a world we can manipulate, one subject to our rule, not God's. This doesn't make Of course, ineffectiveness a virtue though, either. As Yoder explains, “Only the person who believes that the “responsible use of power” from a position of domination is necessary... will then presuppose that the alternative is moral purity at the price of ineffectiveness.” (Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom, p.96) Ineffectiveness can assume the same kind of world effectiveness does.

So what does that leave us? How then do we act, lead responsibly with the things God has given us? I think we must be committed to understanding and steeping ourselves in hearing what the bible says about power and leadership that runs counter to the world’s definitions. Our commitments must be to something higher- a vision of God’s love for the world that cannot consider anyone a means to an end. I should just close with Yoder again:
The conviction that one’s morality and social style are expressive of a transcendent commitment and just of consequential calculation (I.e., what some call an ethic of ‘principle’), contributes to the holding power of individuals in the face of short-range conflict and opposition and protects against giving up the battle or ‘burning out’, standard temptations to those whose reasons for doing good is too closely correlated to manageable projections of effort.” The support of a [Christian Community] reinforces spocial reliability, enabling people to stand against the stream in the face of short-range ineffectiveness until longer range factors have time to work. (The Priestly Kingdom, p.97)


  1. Hi Pastor Erin,

    I've been working on that consciousness thing and power came up yesterday. My thought is that pain causes us to focus on ourselves (and our vulnerability). We then look power to better able to withstand the things that can affect us (because focusing on the pain makes us selfish, so we look for a way to protect the self).

    Those seeking power are seeking for a way to better withstand a blow (like a tank). What we cannot understand while in pain (and thinking in a selfish way) is that there is a better way than withstanding, which is to not be affected at all. It is one thing to take a pain killer, but it is another to continue on whether or not you have pain.

    For you to achieve such abilities, you must give up yourself such that pain or even death no longer affects you (you may still die in the physical sense, but it no longer concerns you. You don't worry about it because whether you live or die physically makes no difference to you).

    When death can no longer affect you, then you will naturally gain an ability to be more than yourself because you have already given of yourself.

    I really feel lead in this aspect lately. The life after the resurrection. No longer focusing on yourself (because you have been freed of worry), but focusing on what you can do now with such freedom. I think the answer is that you can love.


Post a Comment

I cherish your comments, but not vileness or wickedness. By vileness I mean Spam, and wickedness I mean hateful speech. Unless it's about spam.

Popular Posts