In the book of Acts there is a stark example of the methods of God and the methods of humanity with regard to accomplishing things on earth. The troubling reality is that even in the church there is a strong contingent that adopts a glorification of human power and aggressive coercion in both spiritual realms and political. While the Bible has very obvious implications with regard to politics and governance what the New Testament never seems to allow for is a violent uprising regarding earthly issues. What the Bible does seem to endorse is non-violent resistance and, in cases of moral infractions, civic disobedience. We are a people who refuse to compromise what we deeply believe, but the danger in that is to fall into the trap of thinking that every opinion we hold is a “deep belief”.
After Jesus’ Ascension, and after the Spirit’s incredible work in Acts 2, Luke recounts a scene that follows Peter and John to the Temple where they heal a lame man and then begin to teach the crowd that gathers. Peter takes the lead here, speaking of the reality of Jesus. In this context he looks at the crowd of pious Jews who had gathered at the Temple and he says this,
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.
Peter offers a brilliant paradox as he holds up these two figures, Barabbas and Jesus. And we see the comparison clearly in Peter’s words, one was a taker of life, the other was the Giver of life. But to stop there misses some of Peter’s actual point. He isn’t merely holding these two figures up so their traits can be analyzed or a case-study made out of their lives; no, Peter is looking into the eyes of everyone at the Temple and saying, “you chose this, you chose a murderer over a Creator.” The issue at hand is not who Barabbas was or who Jesus was (though that is an enormous issue in itself), the issue at hand was which kind of Savior the people had chosen. Their choice was between the violent, power-grabbing insurrectionist who might be able to make Rome bow the knee and leave Israel alone, or the healing, teaching, foot-washing, servant-leader who seemed more intent on bringing revolution to the hearts of Israel than to the throne of Caesar.
I would be curious how we would have chosen. Or, more importantly, how we would choose today. Do our favored leaders look like those who carry towels, stooping to pray with those who are hurting? Or do they leverage the same power structures and methods as the rest of the world? Friends a better economic theory, or a larger or smaller government, or the end of free agency in baseball, or having more or stronger weapons than whatever enemy we face – none of these will actually bring change to the world because they are all just the Barabbases of our modern world. They all represent the same understanding of power that Caesar, Pilate, Herod, and the Sanhedrin had adopted. At best that kind of power can only hold the status quo, it can never really make things better.
But the power of love, of self-sacrificing love…of the love that stands at rest in the face of the executioner…of the love that weeps with a friend in the face of loss and then the love that looks at the grave and says, “roll away the stone”…of the love that never seems to find a hole too dark or too deep to reach into and pull a hurting person into the healing light of life…of the love that is patient with failures and fools…of the love that believes it better to be killed for the sake of those He loves…
That is the eternal, awe-inducing power of the Author of life, not the short-sighted, marginalized “power” of the pattern of the world.
Everyday we are faced with the choice as to which source of power we will adopt, the power of life-giving, or the power of life-taking. I encourage you friends, look past the immediate moment and choose the power that not only gives life, but the power that has proven to bring life even to the dead. It might look like holding your tongue in one moment and it might look like being cast out of a social circle the next. Whatever it is, you will find that the life-giving love is the only kind of power that will actually last and the only kind that will bring hope to the world around you and the world inside you.