Chapter 4
Encounter with Power

Chapter Summary

Many people celebrate diversity by travelling to different countries to experience ‘authentic’ food, music and dance. In cities with China Towns or Italian quarters we don’t need to travel very far for the same experience. This is wonderful, except where the barriers that define communities also signify inequality of wealth and power. Every political system seems to find a way to justify why some people should have more power than others and at times Christianity has been used in this way. It was used to justify slavery, the rigid defining of social class and Apartheid. If we are to live reconciliation we will come up against entrenched power. This is what happened to Jesus. Many revolutionaries destroy power, but few resist the temptation to reconstruct the same structures to their own advantage. Jesus offered a different alternative, redefining power. This way was demonstrated in his encounter with a powerless gentile woman. When challenged by her to heal her daughter he initially treated her with contempt, but when challenged again he discovered that power is to be shared by all. He taught that great leadership is servant leadership. All too often our church life descends into hierarchies of power that become so familiar they are almost invisible. The key to challenging such structures is to engage in genuine mutual listening. Such listening is only possible when those in power deliberately show they are ready to listen, breaking customs and taboos to challenge the way things are done. It also requires those who expect to be ignored to find their voice and speak and in order for that to happen there is often a need to construct processes of listening – of shared and facilitated conversations – with trained facilitators.

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