Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sacrificial Authority vs. Power

Last night at 7pm a friend texted me to say that Tony Campolo was speaking in 30 minutes at a conference he was at downtown. I was Christmas-tree shopping with two of my roommates, and although we were already weighted down with Christmas lights we had just bought and some other stuff we didn't have time to take home--and despite not being registered with the conference, and not being sure we could get in--we speed-walked to the bus stop and began our journey.

A bus, two subway-trains, and a short taxi ride later, we arrived at the conference only to almost immediately cross paths with a leader I knew who was part of the conference and on his way to the Campolo meeting. We tagged along, and soon we were in!

Turned out there was no hurry. Lots of stuff before Campolo spoke. Nothing too life-changing, though I learned a few things from an on-stage interview with the founder of the top-selling (secular) teen magazine in Canada, Faze, who communicated the four things she believed teens (and everyone else) need most: (1) certainty, (2) uncertainty, (3) connectedness, (4) significance. A lot of truth here, I think.

Finally Campolo was on. Wow, what a message. Super, super convicting. Campolo's first point was that we as Christians are not to seek power but authority to see the world transformed and the fulfillment of that Lord's-prayer line: "Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven." One of Tony's (controversial) examples of trying to change things using power is pouring energy into banning gay marriage. While not in favour of gay marriage and (like me) unaffirming of this lifestyle, Tony challenged, "But do you think a law like that is going to stop two guys from jumping into bed together tonight?" In the audience, we all knew the answer. The message was clear: heavy-handed power is not the solution on this one. The only thing it will surely do is anger people, and bring homosexual people to (oftentimes rightly, sadly) think that Christians disdain them. What an unbiblical result. We are to be known for our love (John 13:34-35), not our hatred.

Campolo's most compelling example of authority was Mother Teresa. I won't tell the same story Campolo did, but the point was that whenever Mother Teresa talked, people listened. As the below video shows, when Mother Teresa rebuked the students at Harvard University for their sexual immorality, they listened. Not even the Pope could do that, he argued: he'd be booed off the stage. But Mother Teresa could get away with stuff like that. Because she had tremendous authority. And the only way to get authority is to earn it.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. - Matthew 7:28-29

"For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." - John 12:49-50

Campolo went on to challenge how we and he have been seduced by the message of greed cloaked in endearing terms like 'the American dream.' He pointed out that North America represents 6% of the global population and yet consumes 43% of the world's resources. He stated that there is a price attached to this kind of consumption. Of course, the toll on the environment was a major part of it.

While no tree-hugger myself (though perhaps I should become more of one), I wonder, how can it possibly be cool that thousands of people die every year from exhaust fumes in India alone? Or, how can it possibly be cool that my stinking, rotting garbage--I've lived all over the world--has, in all likelihood, been slept in, or at least gunked-up the desperate, dirty, livelihood-seeking hands of a kid I'll never meet? (One billion people live in slums; millions live in actual dumps.)

So, I for one was challenged. I was convicted of my own way-too-high standards, my own just-right, warm-at-night desires for comfort. May God bring me to continue to massively challenge my defaults, my opinions, my idea of 'balance', my justifications; and may I keep changing such that my life is more in line with the 'reckless abandonment' I see in the New Testament, the living-by-faith commands, the association with (not self-righteous serving of) the poor (Mark 2:17) that is so stressed throughout the whole Bible.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.." - Luke 4:18-20; Isaiah 61:1-2

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. Would you mind if I reposted it at

Mike Bell

12:33 AM  
Blogger Nigel Paul said...

Please do, Mike. See you soon hopefully!

10:09 AM  

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