The Blessed Exercise of Power: An Inaugural Reflection

by | Jan 19, 2021 | 3 Meek

The US Capitol and the blessed exercise of power

The blessed exercise of power originates beyond the people’s house.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

As America undergoes a Presidential transition, let us reflect on Jesus’ blessing of the meek. For he promises the meek what many politicians of high rank want: to inherit the earth.

Jesus does not condemn that desire. Otherwise, he would not promise its fulfillment as a reward. But he reframes the reward. In his prophetic teaching of the Kingdom of God, inheriting the earth becomes not dominance but belonging in a beloved community. That is what the meek want, and that is what they get.

Moreover, he redirects the pursuit of that reward. The blessed exercise of power differs from the common sense exercise.

Power involves the use of strength to make a difference, to change things. Common sense almost inevitably confuses power with overpowering, overcoming the other, winning, perhaps getting even. Those who exercise it well, common sense says, are winners, and the rest, losers.

We tend to judge ourselves in comparison with others. Moreover, we base our economic and political systems on competition. Little wonder common sense slides power down the slippery slope to overpower. But the uncommon sense of the Kingdom of Heaven differs.

Blessed are the meek. That is the uncommon sense of the Kingdom.

The outgoing president caricatures common sense about power. He derogates and threatens those who disagree, taunts “losers,” promotes himself to the max, and refuses to concede defeat. But the common sense of the Kingdom blesses the meek, the opposite of the outgoing president’s persona.

Who are the meek? Not losers, although those most taken by the need to overpower might think so. The meek exercise strength gently. They seek nonviolent solutions. Moreover, they know that the blessed exercise of power originates not in themselves but in the heart of the one, merciful God.

Whatever their success, the meek attribute it rightly to grace, and receive it gratefully. They accept loss as an opportunity to learn and to discern a new way to exercise their power lovingly.

The persona of the incoming president, Joe Biden, is not without flaws. But the key difference is that he appears to relate to his flaws with humility more than attack. He would command the use of force only as a last resort, and for the sake of all, not for himself. For Biden, political office seems more a matter of stewardship than self-promotion. He shows the strength to share stories of times he felt weak and wounded. Grace and hope emerge from that narrative.

I hope Joe Biden proves as meek as he seems. But even more, I hope and pray that we, the voters, will engage our citizenship with meekness. For unless we place a premium on kindness and inclusion, we will miss the blessed exercise of power. Then our divisions will only get wider and more dangerous.

America is not about presidents inheriting the earth. It is about the people — all the people — inheriting the earth God bids us inhabit. And unless the people are meek, that will not happen for any.

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2 Comments

  1. Michael Parnell

    We truly need to learn humility anew. Our pridefulness got writ large in the last four years. That has led to a fall. Now we must learn to stand again, but to stand again we must learn the lesson of the fall. That means we strive to be people that know the fall is always awaiting our pride when we put it on display.

    Reply
    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Amen! The outgoing president embodies our character problem. We have an opportunity to grow spiritually and morally as long as we focus on our humility rather than focusing on him. Although we should pray for him. After all, humility only develops in a life of love.

      Reply

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