Stroll through Scripture for Sunday, October 30, 2023 assigned reading – 1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29
Human history is full of stories of division and conflict. Stories about who has power and what they do with that power. Often stories about the use of power showcase something very common to the human experience – that those with power doesn’t really understand what power is to be used for and how. Those with power usually crumble under its weight.
In this Sunday’s reading we have the story of two kings after the death of King Solomon. It’s a time in which the tribes, who came together under Saul’s reign, are made strong during the David’s and Solomon’s reign, are not torn apart. And what a choice for people – follow the king who is going to impose cruelty on the people, or the king who makes Israel sin in creating golden calves to worship and sets his kingdom on a path of destruction.
Last week I read a story about the efforts of one of the candidates for the Speaker of the US House of Representatives in the ongoing vacancy that has consumed the chamber. Apparently, he was having his supporters put on a pressure campaign to members of his Conference in order to get them support him…or else. It backfired. Those in positions of power, as well as those seeking power, have often used what power they have to try to force others to comply with their will. And in the process, they create enemies who seek ways to undo them. And it never works out as smoothly as dreamed about.
1 Kings 12 is a story that is told over and over again throughout human history – it’s just that the names change over time. A fight over who gets to take over. Debate over who to listen to – those who offer wisdom that comes with a price, or those who seek power without considering the cost. Stories full of people who supposedly have great power but are somehow always consumed by fear and loss – loss of loyalty, loss of people to serve them, loss of riches and power, and more.
Where does our hope reside? In earthly rulers and their displays of power and might? In our own abilities and show of power and might? In idols that we create and put our identity in place of God? Humanity has gotten really, really good at trying all of these things and more. And yet, it’s the same story – none of this works. How many more times are we going to try though?
What is the creed that we operate out of? Do we buy into the ends justify the means that so many thinks will get them what they want? Do we believe in might makes right or that the strong survive? How well do these belief systems match up with Jesus and what he calls on his followers to live by? They don’t. They never have. All these beliefs of the world just end up consuming the people who live by them mostly because these beliefs see no value in people. It’s all just a worship of power and therefore everyone is expendable, including those with the most power. How very sad. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a better way. A way in which the means and ends are both important. A way in which the focus is on right relationship. A way in which the poor and the weak are uplifted in order to bring the world back to wholeness where there can be thriving life.
That’s Christ’s way. And he invites us all to participate in his way of life. It’s certainly not easy, nor popular. It’s also a costly way. But really, is the other way even somewhat attractive? Look past the promises that it offers and see the reality of history – it never ends well. There is a better way.
For further reflection: Think about power in your life. What power do you have? Who do you have power over? Who has power over you and how do they use it? What are you called to do with the power that you have? How is Jesus calling you to empower others?