In Part 1 we began talking about the account of the centurion in Luke 7 who possessed both clout and compassion. He had great social and political power as well as “great faith.” He cared deeply about the dying servant in his house and the Jewish people under his authority, and treated them all with integrity and generosity. Jesus was “amazed” by the man and deemed his faith greater than that of his own people. This combination of clout and compassion is as rare today as it was then.
Most of us enjoy leverage of one sort or another, probably more than we realize. You don’t have to be a centurion to have clout. If you have people who are dependent on your opinion of them for their paycheck, you have sway. If you are wealthy (even middle-to-lower-middle class) or you’re white or you’re male, you possess something that the poor, the non-white, and women don’t. Anyone with the “upper hand” possesses leverage over someone else, which in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, clout can be used for good as well as for evil.
Read: James 5:1-6
You can buy clout if you have the money or you can inherit it at no fault of your own. In the latter case, all you have to do is be born in the right time in the right place to right family with the plethora of opportunities afforded people in your position.
The majority culture has the power to bless or oppress those in the minority, and history shows that they (we) will surrender that power with no small struggle. When we realize that our majority status is being threatened and that “others” are beginning to outnumber us, we wall ourselves into our safe havens and hold on for dear life. Threaten our majority status and it’s game on!
“The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak,” says Timothy Keller, “the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.”
Our clout-crazy culture is fraying at this very point. We’ve been duped by absolute power and corrupted absolutely. It’s the “meek that will inherit the earth,” not necessarily the rich and powerful. In our fear and insecurity, instead of following the meek and humble Lamb of God, we seek out the fiercest wolf to lead us, to protect us. In Jesus’ upside down kingdom, instead of by fame, fortune, or ferocity, greatness is measured in humility and servitude.
This centurion realized he was in the presence of Someone with greater clout than his: “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” That’s the sort of humility that we need in our culture today with so many enamored with the power of wealth and social privilege. The Lord of glory himself, though he had access to legions of angry angels, he started his earthly life in a cave, grew up in a Podunk town, owned no home, rode a borrowed donkey, allowed the haters to lynch him, and bury him in a borrowed tomb. He’s the epitome of clout conjoined with compassion! Rather than imitating the lesser gods of compassionless clout, we should strive to emulate Jesus.
While God may not routinely require that we forfeit leverage itself, he always demands that we surrender how we use it. He doesn’t always demand that we give away all our money and means, but that we steward them in the most generous ways possible.
The majority culture can’t very well choose a different ethnicity, but like the centurion, who reached outside his own tribe, we can treat those in the minority as equals before God. There’s no room in the Father’s heart for a Western world “caste system.” We must steward whatever form of leverage we possess in such a way as to reflect the personality of the One who gave it to us in the first place.
Read: “What Should We Do? (Part 2)”
If we “love our neighbors as ourselves” (whoever they may be and from wherever they come) we will steward whatever power we possess for their benefit. In contrast to his colleagues, this centurion saw his servant and the Jews as “neighbors” to love rather than underlings to exploit.
Might doesn’t mean right. Men, who on average are stronger than women, must never use their strength to abuse them. Parents must always use their strength to protect, and never to harm their children. Elected officials must remember to use the power of their office for the common good, not just their own. Law enforcement officers possess the power of a badge. They mustn’t use it to ill-treat the public. (God isn’t anti-cop, just anti-bad-cop!) He’s anti-power-mongering of any kind––religious, political, or social. We must all use the power of our privilege for the good of all, especially those whose need are greatest. This is what Jesus calls “great faith.” This is the sort of faith that amazes him.
Let’s amaze him today!