Power and Authority

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” Philippians 2: 5-7a While travelling with Tony Campolo this summer, he told me this story: ThAngrye health board in an American community asked the local government to grant permission for the opening of ‘halfway’ houses for people being discharged from a local psychiatric hospital. The homes were intended to be a safe place where those who had previously suffered from mental illness could rebuild their lives. The local community (many of whom were Christian) rose up in arms at this proposal. They did not want these homes in their neighbourhood! The lobbying machine went into overdrive, with a concerted local media campaign swelling the protesters support. When it was time for the next meeting of the local council hundreds of angry residents arrived to bombard the elected members with their opposition to these homes. Seeing the mood of the meeting, the council members voted unanimously not to allow the health board to open the homes. Just as the vote was passed the door of the hall opened, and in walked the frail figure of Mother Theresa. In the area to speak at a conference, Mother Theresa had heard of the furore raging over this issue. With the room suddenly silent and every eye on her tiny frame, Mother Theresa walked to the front of the hall and knelt in front of the Council. “Please give these people a chance,” she begged, “Please, please, please!” Faced with the kneeling nun, the council rescinded their recent decision and – with no opposition from the onlookers – the halfway homes were duly built. What was it about the plea of one small woman that carried such sway against hundreds of outraged citizens? The protesters in the local community used their power to try to force their will on the local council – a media campaign, and many angry voices – but Mother Theresa spoke with a compelling authority. Where did this authority come from? It came from the fact that Mother Theresa had given up everything for the sake of the poor, living a life of sacrifice and selfless giving, truly identifying with the people she served in every possible way. When we, as Christians, speak out on issues that face us today, do we speak with power or ? If we want to make a difference to the communities in which we live then we need to be sacrificially involved with those in need: giving our time and money, letting go of our own agendas and truly serving our communities.