Everybody wants it. Everyone wants to have control over others. Everyone wants to be important and able to make decisions that affect other people. In a helpful distinction, Greg Boyd defines what Christian power looks like in contrast to the power of the world, which is represented in violence. He says that real power comes in the form of the cross not the sword. He says, power comes from serving others not exploiting them.
While cross-power may look weak next to sword-power, it is in fact, the greatest power in the universe. The power of the cross is the only power that can overcome evil rather than merely suppress it for a while. It’s the only power that can transform an enemy into a friend. It’s the power that God promises will ultimately transform the world. Its’ the kind of power the omnipotent God himself relied on when he came in the person of Jesus Christ to overcome evil and redeem all of creation from its grip. (pg. 23, The Myth of a Christian Religion)
This resonates deeply with me. I recognize in my own life a temptation to use ‘sword-power’. It shows up when raising my kids. I’m tempted to raise my voice, yell, and threaten violence (spanking) in order to assert my control over them and the situation. But this doesn’t put me in a position of influence in their life. I know this will lead them to resent me and ultimately strip me of power. I will no longer be in a position to speak into their lives and have them listen. The temptation also arises when I’m arguing with my wife. I want my way, and if I can appear as strong and powerful as possible I think I will win the argument. But here too, if I use this means to victory, in the end, I lose. She is left feeling abused and dismissed because I was too set on getting my own way. Our relationship suffers, and my power diminishes.
Cross-power is the opposite. It looks like service, and it is the way to true power. When we serve someone, they respect us. When we love someone, they love us back. When we sacrifice for someone, they become our friends. This is true power. This is transformative power. It’s so obvious to me, and yet it never ceases to be difficult to do. When I’m frustrated with my kids, it’s hard to avoid sword-power. I just want to get my way with any means possible. With my wife, it’s hard to avoid bulldozing her in an argument. I just want to win and I forget about what winning looks like 10 minutes after the argument is over.
I find Cross-power is hard to do because it requires me to die. I have to die to that part of me that is screaming to get my way or win the argument. I have to die to my selfish desires. Death is hard. But at the same time, I know that this is the only true power. Everything else “suppresses evil” while cross-power transforms evil into good.