We come at a point of transition from the month to explore the place of violence in our times – to the season to celebrate the Prince of Peace. Thus it is a wonderful paradox to look at this Prince at the point of His temptation for power.
Henri Nouwen writes about leadership in a very simple booklet titled “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership”. He approaches the subject of leadership by looking through the lens of Jesus’ three temptations. When he gets to the temptation for power, Nouwen writes:
One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power – political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power – even though they continued to speak in the name of Jesus, who did not cling to his divine power but emptied himself and become as we are.
The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all. We keep hearing form others, as well as saying to ourselves, that having power – provided it is used in the service of God and your fellow human beings – is a good thing. With this rationalization, crusades took place; inquisitions were organized; Indians were enslaved; positions of great influence were desired; episcopal palaces, splendid cathedrals, and opulent seminaries were build; and much moral manipulation of conscience was engaged in.
Every time we see a major crisis in the history of the Church… we always see that a major cause of rupture is the power exercised by those who claim to be followers of the poor and powerless Jesus.
What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life…
I write as one still learning to unclench my fists from the easy substitute for love.
This is more enigma than dogma…