Week 3 (January)
We humans are probably too impressed by "position." Let a person get named to a position of leadership and immediately that person's utterances take on new authority... authority his or her words didn't seem to possess previously.
That person is the same man or woman as before. He or she is probably even saying the same kinds of things they've always said. But now everybody listens to them or is supposed to! With the elevation to a new position, a person's words assume new importance.
It happens in politics. It happens in business. It even happens in the church.
With Jesus it is different. Really different. This Man's words, said His contemporaries, had authority and power.
Jesus didn't need the external trappings of position men might confer on Him. He never got elected or appointed to anything. He held no "position" of any kind. Yet, His word was with power.
An old song by Lewis E. Jones had believers singing, "There is power in the blood." That's true. Then Bill and Gloria Gaither had us listening to one titled "There's Something About that Name." The message of both of those songs is true. Jesus did exude power and authority. Luke says that the first-century Jews were amazed and even awed by the power and authority in Jesus' words.
When some people talk of the Spirit of Christ leading us, they refer to a "still, small voice," a phrase picked up from Elijah's life story. There's nothing bombastic, harsh or demanding about God's voice even when it exudes authority. Real authority.
There's something else about this Man that I can't get away from. Though He had a strangely awesome power and authority, He used it as few men of authority have ever tried to do. His earthy life was one long story of responding compassionately to human need. Luke tells of Him casting out demons and healing the sick -- using simply His authority and not through some manipulative capacity or power.
The world needs to sense His authority through us -- not as we attempt to wield a club or shout commands or give orders, but as we respond to human needs. I hope we're rediscovering this aspect of the gospel message (although sometimes we tend to shoot our wounded!).
A recent period of misunderstandings and rejection by people I had trusted has sensitized me to the traumas of other people. I knew all along that there was hurt in the world. But in my moments of hurting, so many others have comforted me with their own stories of victory over rejection, over misunderstandings, and over feelings of helplessness in a power structure.
I still don't understand why the Lord allowed this crushing experience to envelop me and my family. But I do know that this personal trauma has given me a greater sensitivity for and an understanding of those who may also be watching their dreams and hopes evaporate.
The union Jesus makes between power and compassion probably doesn't make a lot of sense to the world. This world views compassion as weakness, as the opposite of power and authority.
The closer we Christians get to this Man of all power, the more insistent we'll hear His call to be sensitized to human trauma and need.
I wrote these devotional thoughts while serving as a missionary in Italy. They originally appeared in the January 20, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
Reflections on the power of words: Would Jesus cuss?
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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