This is the fourteenth in our Advent series of reflections, written by pioneering youth workers…
The Perils of Power
When I was a child I never really remember the Slaughter of the Innocents where Herod murdered all of the first born male children he could get hold of. Bit gruesome for our sanitised version of the Christmas story and certainly not suitable for little ones! How could a little baby born in a back water of the Roman Empire cause such a powerful man as Herod into an uncontrollable rage of vengeance?
The story of Herod is the story of whether powerful people and systems, built on control, threat and coercion often layered by false articulation of motives, get to save the world. How often do we work with young people who find themselves in a world where others are seeking that control, threat and coercion over their lives. Not just individuals but systems that they have to interact with on a daily basis. Does it save them?
What about those who come to young people with vulnerability, openness, powerlessness? In what sense does that ‘save’ them? It gives them choice, agency, relationship that shapes how they respond, indeed puts the choice about how to respond in their hands. If to be saved is to learn to become more of our true selves, then surely this is the only way to offer salvation as wholeness or peace or rescue or welfare, what the bible sums up as shalom.
Christmas reverses what we understand to be power, which changes how we understand how God acts in the world to rescue us all. Power as control, threat and coercion is not really power at all. It’s a house of cards which gets exposed by true power expressed as vulnerability, openness and apparent powerlessness. This power feels threatened and so resorts to more control, threat and coercion. But that doesn’t save anyone including those who perpetrate it, in fact it consumes and destroys them and the systems that support them. So if we want to see young people be part of the great story of salvation, to experience wholeness, to find themselves part of the story of God’s action in the world, then as youth workers we need to continue to approach young people with the power of not wanting power at all.
By Tim Evans, Worth Unlimited
Join us this advent.
Frontier Youth Trust is a home for pioneer youth workers. As part of our shared rhythm of life we have invited pioneers from within our community to contribute a reflection about a character from the nativity story. We will be posting these reflections throughout advent.
We invite you to journey with us and discover the story afresh.