The Power of Love Taught and Lived Out by Jesus

Jesus was not spared the temptation to become all-powerful. 

Tim Alberta starts his thought-provoking book The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory, by quoting the following words recorded in Luke 4:5-8 (KJ21):

And the devil, taking Him up into a high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

And the devil said unto Him, “All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for this has been delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan! For it is written: “Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’”

These words should not be interpreted as Jesus ruling out the exercise of power. He only rejected the type of power that Satan offered to him. At the end of this Musing, you will read about the type of “power” that Jesus taught and lived out. But it will take us a while to get there. I start by reflecting on the type of “power” that is rampant in our tribalistic culture. 

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The Quest for Power

In our increasingly polarized and tribalistic culture, the desire to exert power over others is rampant. I point my readers to two examples.

In the political realm, it appears that many politicians will do most anything to get elected to legislative office, or re-elected once in office. Why is that? It is my belief that this desire is very often motivated by an inordinate quest for power, a desire to exercise dominion over others; which presents a sharp contrast to the ideal of serving the best interests on those who elected you to a legislative office (which is my reason for supporting the concept of “term-limits”; an idea that begs for elaboration, which is not possible in this brief Musing).

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There is Hope for Evangelicals Returning to the Church

In the past 25 years, 40 million persons in America (15% of the USA population) who self-identify as “Evangelicals” have left the institutional church. Why is that? And is there a way to “bring them back?” In in their excellent book The Great Dechurching, Jim Davis and Michael Graham, with Ryan P Burge, wrestle with these challenging questions.

In this relatively brief Musing, I cannot adequately address the plethora of helpful insights, backed-up by much data, that is presented in this very informative book. Therefore, what follows will focus primarily  on my understanding of the authors’ reflections on “Belief,” “Belonging” and “Behavior.”

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A Broad View of God’s Redemptive Purposes and your Role (and Mine) in Accomplishing those Purposes

In the pietistic Lutheran sub-culture into which I was born and raised, we were led to believe in a very narrow view of God’s Redemptive purposes: God only wishes to redeem individual persons.

In 1972 I began to seriously question that narrow view of redemption during a sabbatical leave while teaching mathematics at The King’s College (NY), when I read the Bible from cover to cover searching for clues as to God’s intentions for Creation. I have been refining the results of that quest ever since.

While still embracing the importance of “individual redemption,” I now believe that God has a much broader set of purposes for the world, as follows:

  • Positive Relationships of human beings with God
  • Truth about all aspects of our world
  • Loving relationships among all humans
  • Justice for all humans, especially for the poor and marginalized
  • Physical and emotional well-being for all humans
  • Peace among humans experiencing conflict
  • Harmony among humans and other living beings
  • Flourishing of the natural environment
  • Flourishing of all expressions of beauty in human creations

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My Search for Truth

My desire to understand the truth about all aspects of our world is insatiable. After 40 years of serving as a teacher and academic administrator at four Christian liberal arts colleges, I formulated a description of higher education at its best in just three words: “Conversations Seeking Truth.”

But the goal of uncovering the truth about any given contentious issue has fallen on hard times because of a strong tendency to gravitate toward one of two unacceptable extremes: relativism and tribalism.

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Imitating Jesus

I recently had the delightful experience of reading a book that beautifully captured a number of my deeply held beliefs about the nature of my commitment to the Christian faith. Especially gratifying was the fact that the author, Gerald L. Sittser, and I served together as members of the administration at Northwestern College in Iowa in the 1980s and became good friends (so, he will always be “Jerry”).

In his splendid book Resilient Faith, Jerry makes it abundantly clear that the calling of each Christian is to “imitate” Jesus, who “changed everything” (p. 106). Consider his various descriptors:

  •  Jesus is the “center of reality” (p. 174)
  •  Jesus was at the “heart of the Christian way of life” (p. 174).
  • “All holiness” derived from Jesus (p. 124).
  • The early Christians had a “new identity in Christ” (p. 105)
  • “Conversion to Christ implied conformity to Christ” (p. 177)

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A Redemptive Approach to Human Sexuality Disagreements within Christian Churches

Numerous Christian churches, and their denominations, are being torn apart by an inability to orchestrate respectful conversations among members who strongly disagree regarding human sexuality issues. This is especially true for the issue of same-sex marriage, where the major disagreement is between those who hold to a “traditional” view of marriage (God intends for marriage to be reserved for a man and a woman) and a “non-traditional” view (God will bless a same-sex marriage where the partners make a covenant commitment to love each other for a lifetime).

I will now point my readers to a splendid example of how one church, Covenant Christian Reformed Church (CCRC) in Sioux Center, Iowa, under the leadership of their Senior Pastor, Joel Kok, has modeled a redemptive path in the midst of this current vitriol. My hope and prayer is that this story will inspire many other Christian churches, and their denominations, to replicate the redemptive approach exemplified at CCRC.

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Respectful Conversations in a Family that Disagrees

It cannot be denied that discourse these days is increasingly characterized by a rampant tribalism; which has been described as an us-versus-them mentality where it is believed that with regard to any contentious issue, “me-and-my-people” possess the “whole truth,” while “those other folks” have none of the truth; leading to the conclusion that there is nothing to be learned from talking to those other folks.

But who are “me-and-my-people?” They could be members of my church, or my church’s denomination, or my political party, or the fraternal organization to which I belong, or my circle of friends. But what about my biological family? Can I describe them as belonging to a group designated as “me-and-my-people?”

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Tolerating Competing Truths in Politics

In his compelling book The Last Politician, Franklin Foer asserts that “Politics is … an ethos that requires tolerance of competing truths” (pp. 3-4). He portrays President Biden as tolerant of “competing truths,” which leads to Biden resorting to “old-fashioned politics: deal-making andcompromise.”

Since the words “deal-making and compromise” have fallen on hard times. I will attempt to explain how I believe President Biden is using these words as an expression of his tolerance of competing truths.

I don’t believe that the words “competing truths” mean that here are “alternative facts” about a given issue or situation; a non-sensical idea perpetrated by Kellyanne Conway. There is only “one truth” about the issue or situation at hand. To be sure, only an all-knowing God has a complete grasp of that truth. And the fact that I am not God presents a considerable challenge.

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My Game-Changers Regarding Same-Sex Marriage

In the pietistic Lutheran Church in which I was nurtured as a young Christian, we never talked about homosexuality or same-sex marriage. The traditional view that marriage God intends for marriage to be reserved for a man and woman was just assumed. It was like the air we breathed.

I now embrace a non-traditional view of same-sex marriage; believing that God will bless a same-sex marriage wherein each marriage partner has made a covenant commitment to love the other person for a lifetime. What precipitated this change in belief? I attribute it to two “game-changers.”

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