power, goodness &”changing the world”

This is my question: 

How often do we pursue change because what we actually seek is power?

The starting point for this question was an episode of “How to Fail with Elizabeth Day” which interviewed Tara Westover, a historian and author.

Westover spoke in passing about the necessity of our moral convictions bearing an actual relation to God. She reasons, 

If God is separate to morality as we know it, our worship of God is a worship of power and not of goodness. 

(For the philosophically minded among you, it may be worth considering this comment in light of the Euthyphro dilemma.)

Then yesterday came a throwaway line from Katie Dowds, a pastor at the Lighthouse church in Leeds. In the context of thinking about local church and our calling to serve the most vulnerable. She said this, 

making change is sweet, but we are called to make disciples

Readers, my instantaneous thought was ‘oh no.’

Why you ask? Because instinctively I am far more interested in ‘making change’ than in investing in others. 

And this made me think: is it possible that my attraction to change is related to an attraction to power? 

And conversely: is my shying away from investing in others related to a reluctance to give over power, in whatever form it may be? 

This first of all made me feel awful. 

And then I remembered the request of James and John. Who, bless them, ask if they can be sat by Jesus in glory (Mark 10:35). 

The easiest reaction to this, of course, is some form of incredulity (see: the other disciples who “became indignant“).

However, what I understood for the first time yesterday was that James and John are actually only recognising Jesus’ power and reacting the way most of us do in such a situation (they seek that power for themselves.) 

Jesus does not react with incredulity. After all, he knows our self-seeking tendencies to chase after power. 

Instead, Jesus says this, 

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”

Mark 10:42-45

i.e. you are shown that power is the way to greatness, to make a difference, to make change. But I tell you that the real way to greatness is goodness. Service, love, giving away, not holding onto. 

And this is what I see modelled in the gospels; Jesus consistently chooses the good and not the powerful. 

Fundamentally, this is the choice of both the incarnation and crucifixion. 

Jesus forsakes the powerful for the good. 

This lead me to a final reflection: 

Greatness is not found in power, it is found in goodness. 

Wonderfully, this is why we praise God. Scripture’s central praise of God is as holy rather than as almighty.

Our worship of God is a worship of goodness not of power. 

In this, I also find the answer to my question. The answer is, ‘often. But we are shown another way‘. 

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’  who was, and is, and is to come.”Revelation 4:8