The story is as old as the human race itself.
Come on, admit it. You've fantasized about it before. Taking over for your boss. Running the show in your home or workplace or city. Being prime minister or president. Captain of the sports team. Dominating a relationship. Somewhere along the line, and in some arena of your life, you have craved power, whether for better or for worse. We see this even in the timeless popularity of the superhero in our culture. For the ancient Greeks, it was Zeus. For us, it's Batman (well, for me, it's Batman). Who hasn't thought about flying around the city defending humanity against crime and evil in tights and a cape? Ok, maybe not the tights part. But why do we think it's so desirable to have superhuman "powers" that set us apart from what anybody else can do? Why do we idolize being "the best" or "the coolest" or "the most powerful?" I somehow doubt that our motivation would be as noble as simply "the greater good of humanity." Why do we crave these things, apart from the insatiable human desire to be somehow "better" than the people around us? To be recognized and respected. To be "special." To be in control. To have power.
I'll admit to entertaining similar fantasies myself. I've often found myself daydreaming of commanding the influence and respect of thousands of people, hanging on my every word and decision. I remember playing intramural soccer at my public school in Grade 8. As one of the more experienced players on my team, one of my friends suggested that I should be the team's captain. I didn't argue with him. I was, after all, the best. And I enjoyed the feeling of acceptance. So I took over. Of course, this was after-school, recreational soccer. There weren't supposed to be any captains. But I liked being looked up to, being in control...having power. I'm pretty sure that's why I wasn't selected by the supervising teachers to represent the school on its competitive team that year.
The thirst for power can be a scary thing. If given the ultimate place in our lives, like with Alexander and Hitler, it can compel us to do absolutely whatever it takes to ensure success. And it can blind us to the hurt we are causing in the process. It can move us to sacrifice our time, our energy, even our relationships to the "cause." The cause of making ourselves bigger in the eyes of everyone else around us. Bigger than we know we really are. Or in some cases, as big as we think we should be.
The thing about power though is that the craving is never really fully satisfied. Once you reach one milestone, you immediately crave another. Once you make it big, you want to make it bigger. Once you gain control, you want an enlarged territory. It's all about you. The game never ends. You never really win. There are just a bunch of casualties left in your wake. Often those closest to you. And like Alexander, one of those casualties just may end up being yourself.
Despite our daydreams and delusions of grandeur, our pursuits of greatness and the building up of our own little kingdoms, so often in our quest for power over others, we neglect perhaps our most important kingdom subject: ourselves. Think about it. Don't you sometimes wish you had greater control, greater influence, greater power over your own self? Over your own desires? Aren't there things that control you? Times when you find yourself willing, yet unable to do exactly the things you really want to do? Or desiring to resist certain urges, yet constantly giving in to them? Or maybe you've given up altogether on the quest to control your own self. Maybe you just let things take their course and hope for the best. Go with what's "natural" and "live it up." But in the end, it's not nearly as satisfying or fulfilling as you'd hoped, or as you try to convince yourself that it is. And you're not nearly the person you really want to be. Believe me, I'm right there with you.
But what if that could change? What if you could be the person you really, actually, truly want to be? What if you could have the power over your own self to make that happen? What if you didn't need the approval or respect or fear of others to feel valued and important? What if you could experience just as much fulfillment and acceptance at the bottom of the barrel as at the top of the ladder? Wouldn't that be real power? I'm not talking about positive thinking, self-help books or motivational speakers here. I'm talking about having real power over what controls you instead of the other way around. I mean, let's face it, the urge to have power over others isn't exactly your most endearing quality.
Here's my take. It didn't take long after my Grade 8 soccer power trip for me to realize just how much of a jerk I'd been and begin to regret it. I don't want to live my life with me at the center of my own universe. I don't want to keep burning people as I try to glorify myself in their eyes, whether it be my family, friends, co-workers, classmates, or even my church. And I certainly don't want to live for how much territory I own or how many people respect me. That doesn't sound like freedom to me. What I really want is to be able to have enough power over my own self to live a life that is self-sacrificing and more concerned for the well-being of others than my own. It's not as easy as it might sound. You probably already know. In fact, I don't think I can even do it on my own.
In my opinion, there is one man who demonstrated this quality of self-control and sacrifice in a position of power better than any other in history. His name is Jesus. And he could have had a lot of power. He was healing people left, right and centre. He gained more respect and authority with the people than the guys who were running the show at the time. Man, people wanted to crown this guy king! But what you don't see is Jesus pushing people around and using his influence to start a revolution. In fact, for a guy who ends up claiming to be God, you see a whole lot of humility. At times, he even told people he healed not to tell anybody. He just keeps helping people and doesn't seem to get anything back in return. In fact, what he does get is cruelly murdered. By some guys who didn't like that they were losing their power.
I think Jesus shows us that power doesn't have to be abused. It just nearly always is. We find ways of corrupting it and making it serve us instead of serving others. But Jesus not only gives us a positive example of using power for good, he also makes us an interesting and intriguing offer: to share in his power. To have exactly the kind of power over your own self that I (and I suspect you) so desperately want and need. Not power in and of my own self, but from him. See, Jesus claimed that for those who believe in and follow him, they would receive God's power. Not power to destroy your enemies with a simple wink or time travel (although that does sound pretty cool), but a whole new spirit giving us the ability to love sacrificially, to act courageously, and to control our desires instead of being controlled by our desires. To me, that sounds a whole lot cooler than time travel. And a whole lot freer than making my life's goal to control others. To me, that sounds like the kind of life I want to live.
What about you?