And the power dynamic
By Paul Slough
“…the centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word…’” (Matthew 8:8)
What is the hallmark of the Church that separates us from the world and its system? Some if not most would reply, “faith,” and while accurate, and certainly St. Paul would agree—the underwriter is humility. Humility in fact is “…the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3)
Please know, that I am not using the pronoun of “he” and “his” glibly, nor as a filler. Rather, like the centurion, I wish to point to the perfection of humility and power when he called Jesus “Lord,” which was a blasphemous statement that put the centurion in grave danger in first century Rome. Arguably, this epoch of Roman history was the height of emperor worship, coupled with ethnocentrism and the worship of nation—all of which having their roots in the worship of self. And let’s not kid ourselves, these same passions are in us too…
So, humility is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature and the support that upholds the universe itself. The result being infinite power.
Our brother Peter wrote in his first letter regarding this power dynamic in our familial relationship in the Church and families at large, that we are not to dominate or “domineer” over one another, but “…we are to be clothed with humility toward one another”—ultimately “..humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that in his proper time, he might exalt us.” This IS the intersection of the humility and power exchange.
In the conversation between Christ and the centurion, and the careful concern shown by Peter, the theme of humility leaps off the page as an inward pre-condition of and an outward manifestation pointing to faith. (Matthew 8:11)
This juxtaposition of humility and power may seem counter-intuitive for a soldier, or in this case a centurion, especially seen through Western eyes—but both men underscore the earthly reality that points to an eternal one: being under authority.
Peter putting pen to paper states explicitly that authority can be used for dominance over another with demands in hand, or we can operate from the point of being an example. The centurion accomplishes the latter in his actions for his servant and those under his command, by openly submitting to the Lordship of Christ—even at great risk to himself, all while living in the context of dominance.
“Headship is not by self-assertion, but by self-offering.” —Darrel L. Block
As one seeks to build upon and then implement this concept into a tangible reality, two communities emerge: the Community of Humility and the Community of Dominance. The latter being innate to our humanity exemplified by our parents in the Garden, and at times our everyday actions. The former being that of God’s reaction when he shows up in that same Garden. (Genesis 3:6-9)
Ironically, if anyone had rights of demands and entitlements, it was the centurion, as he “..built the synagogue..” (Luke 7:5) and he was part of the empire that the Pharisees pointed to as having ultimate authority (John 11:48) yet both God and the centurion choose to live from the Community of Grace and Humility. So it is not the outward circumstances that dictate our response, rather it is a heart fully reconciled with the author, finisher and Lord of all.
Let our choice of grace and humility be one sought after with tenacity as Peter encourages, the centurion embodies, and our Lord perfects.
Paul Slough is currently serving an unjust prison sentence along with three other men and their families. But what was meant for destruction, God is using for their good. He is a student of Scripture who desires to be back in his family’s arms, and to begin the next chapter of their lives. You can read their story and pray for their pardons at freeraven23.com.