I’ve heard about your faith in Jesus and your love for all those who are committed to him. So I never stop being thankful for you when I pray. I pray that the God of Jesus, the source of glory, will make you wise, and you will see more clearly as you know God better. And seeing clearly, with open hearts, you will be enlightened to know what God is calling you to hope for: namely, the richness of your inheritance (along with all Jesus followers), and the sheer power of God’s strength channeled through us who follow him.
God’s power was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead and then raised him to the highest place of honor in God’s very throne room in heaven. Now Jesus is way more powerful than any ruler or authority or force or empire. Jesus is better now than anyone else you can name. Now or ever. And God has made everything subject to Jesus. And Jesus rules over everything through the church, which is his body. The church completely represents him.
It’s a staggeringly audacious (and narcissistic) claim:
- Jesus rules everything.
- The church is Jesus’ body on earth.
- Therefore, the church rules everything.
And, while it’s one thing to say that God (or Jesus) is ultimately in control, it’s quite another to claim that any group of people, even well-intentioned churchy ones, speaks for God.
It’s patently false, even if Jesus is the greatest.
It’s also an invitation to reflect on the nature of power. There’s no question Jesus exercised power. And there’s no question that Jesus intended his followers to exercise power. But what kind of power?
This passage, two generations removed from Jesus, has returned to the view of power as coercive force. God’s sheer coercive force trumps the coercive force of earthly rulers.
The real Paul, in his better moments, understood power differently. “We have nothing, yet we possess everything,” he would say to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:10), expressing the paradox that the only way to really have something is to let it go.
The power Jesus exercises in the gospels is always restorative. Healing. Returning sight. Enabling hearing and speaking. Giving life. Renewing relationships. Generating meaning. When Jesus gives his disciples “authority” in the gospels, he gives them power to do these things. He never sends them off to vanquish someone or another.
If the church to really wants to represent Jesus and to know God better, it will have to shed it’s “my Christianity is better than your religion” attitude and start exercising the healing, envisioning, listening, engaging in conversation, life affirming, relationship renewing, meaning generating power Jesus intended.
Then the world will have (at least) one good reason to believe.