For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. – 1 Corinthians 4:20
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Power here is the transliterated Greek word dunamis which often refers to miracles or the ability to do the miraculous, and it is often contrasted with another word that gets translated into English as “power” -- exousia, which refers to authority. In the preceding verses, Paul offers something of a validation of his authority over the church at Corinth and a response to those in that assembly who are dismissive of him as a leader. Paul challenges those of impressive speech to authenticate by power.
I always take a mental step back when I read this. It causes me to wonder if there is, by Paul’s standard, any authentic Christianity in this age. I am not denying that miracles happen in our world of more than seven billion souls, probably somewhere on a daily basis. The Church as a whole, though, seems mostly content with talk.
If the kingdom of God consists of ability, mighty works, strength, force, even violence, as the word power connotes, where do we see that? We seem more concerned with hoping that we can slip past the gate into heaven. We have Christian motivational speakers, lawyers, doctors, financial advisors, bankers, politicians, etc., -- NTTAWWT, but we don’t seem to have many people living under an open heaven, walking in truth and power, and laughing at the rules the world would try to impose on us.
I get the feeling Paul would have understood Boondock Saints -- not approving of the celebration of vulgarity or the depictions of the violent destruction of human lives but understanding the underlying “holy defiance” that says we have the power and the obligation to call out wickedness and expose it for what it is. I am tired of hearing apologies for Christianity. I am tired of attempts to justify the truth and our belief in truth. It seems to me the people who are practicing and promoting evil should be the ones trying to justify themselves and begging for forgiveness. I am not in the business of punishing people for their sins, of decreeing sentences, or of avenging. When Jesus said, “Judge not”, that is what He meant. What He most certainly did not mean is that we ought to avoid speaking and living the truth so that those around us might not be offended.
This power of which the kingdom consists is the strength to do all things in Christ. It is the ability to be at peace in all situations, the force of joy, and the gift of righteous living. Jesus came to give us abundant life. The flesh has no authority over us; we owe it nothing. The only power the world has over us it that which we are willing to concede.