Power Directed By Compassion

Rev. Dr. Cecelia A. Walker, Director, Pastoral Care
Princeton Baptist Medical Center

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18)

As sure as we live, we will find ourselves under the authority or power of others. We encounter it from birth throughout our lives. Parents, teachers, supervisors, pastors, law enforcement, etc. wield a certain power in their various areas of responsibility. If you have not experienced it yourself, certainly you have seen or heard of situations in which power was used inappropriately. Some people seem to enjoy flaunting their power. Whenever we find ourselves in positions of authority we have responsibility to handle that power with humility, integrity and restraint. 

In the passage above, Jesus was preparing the disciples for His impending death. He knew that to the human eye, the approaching events of His passion would appear as a win for Satan. Jesus explained that He had made the choice to give His life and that it was not being taken. In Matthew 26:53, Jesus rebuked Peter for attempting to defend Him. He asked: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (One legion referred to at least 6000.)

Jesus was clear about who He was. He was fully committed to His mission. He looked not only to His interests, but to the interest of lost humanity. His compassion for our lost souls moved him to empty Himself. Though he was in the form of God, and possessed the power and the authority to keep His life he chose to lay it down. One psalmist explains it in this manner: “It was love that held Him to the Cross”. 

As always, it is right to look to the Ultimate Example for direction as we attempt to live in ways that please God. How do we handle power and authority? Are we harsh in our actions and speech? Sometimes insecurity, incompetence and insensitivity can cause us to abuse our power. By making others feel weak, we feel more powerful. As Christians, we are placed in places of authority to influence, by the love of Christ, each person under our authority to become their best selves. 

Ash Wednesday which begins Lent is this week. Many of us will be “giving up” things during this season in an effort to deepen our walk with the Lord. May I suggest that we also make a special effort to “lay down” harshness, condescension and negativity and “take up” compassion, patience, humility and above all, love.  

Prayer: “Forbid it Lord, that we should boast, except in the death of Christ our Lord! All the vain things that charm us most, we sacrifice them to Your blood. Were the whole realm of nature ours, that would be a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands our souls, our lives, our all.” Amen.

Adapted from the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts

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