The struggle for power and influence in the world has several facets. The rhetoric of political leaders is increasingly negative and unpleasant. It happens both within countries and on the international stage.
If conflicts were only fought by words, matters would be easier to handle, but we also see that some leaders are trying to outdo each other in legislation that stops refugees entering their countries, as well as showing off their military capacity.
This attitude of boosting your own strength, worth and self-confidence in comparison with others seems to be as old as humanity. It is likely a result of sin in our lives. Either we make ourselves to be like gods or we make our gods ourselves, to our liking. The result in both cases is that we get further and further away from the opportunity for reconciliation, forgiveness, love and a good life within ourselves, with each other and with God.
Recently I’ve been reminded of two passages in the Bible where God shows his power and strength through people when they are stripped of their attributes (or expectations) of human power and superiority.
In 2 Kings chapter 5 we read the story of Naaman, a military leader in Syria, who suffered from leprosy. His wife’s servant was an Israelite slave girl (captured in war). She used her freedom of faith to suggest that Naaman should go to Samaria and meet the prophet Elisha, who could cure her master from this illness.
To make a long story short, Naaman was prepared to make a big issue of this. He was willing to pay a fortune and he expected the Prophet to make a big ceremony of the healing ritual. God had other things in mind. Elisha did not even bother to meet this high-ranking officer from the neighbouring country. The cure was simply prescribed through a messenger: Naaman should go to the River Jordan and wash himself seven times.
This was an insult to the pride and position of Naaman. Fortunately, his servant dared to speak. He said that if his master was ready to go through a big and expensive show of treatment, why not just do the simple thing that was asked of him? Naaman calmed down, humbled himself, dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and was healed from his illness.
Another situation when God chose to do great things through simple means was David’s fight with Goliath (1 Samuel 17). King Saul wanted to equip David for the fight with Goliath by giving him his own coat of armour, helmet and sword – the whole royal kit (fit!) for fighting. It would look impressive! It would give David status! It took just a few minutes before it became clear to the boy David that this outfit was extremely impractical. He took it all off and chose the simple weapon he was good at handling, a sling and stones.
The examples show that God does not enter the fight for good by matching the weapons of his opponent. God is never provoked by the loud voice and scary weapons of the Devil. God never enters the fight with evil as if the Devil were an equal opponent. Just look at the crucifixion of Jesus. The ultimate victory of God came when Jesus had been stripped of all signs of earthly power. He had no followers, no weapon, no position in this world. What he had was the awareness of who he was and where he came from and that his Father had planned a victory of a different kind. And he knew that the prince of this world had no hold on him (John 14:30).
When pride and expectations of human greatness are gone, God will act through whatever means he chooses. He can choose symbolic actions like dipping yourself seven times in a river, he can use a boy with a slingshot, he can use saliva and mud, he can use simple words of prayer or the anointment with oil. The common factor for God’s victory over the enemy, or for his healing power to work, are not the visible weapons or other practical means. The common factor is that we are obedient to the will and guidance of God.
I’m not denying the fact that God also can manifest his love and power by making great and visible things happen. A spiritual revival that demonstrates his salvation, love, righteousness and peace-making would be noticeable. One difference is that God would never raise a human being or an individual church to fame in order to manifest his greatness. When God’s Kingdom is victorious on earth, it is always Jesus who will get the attention and be given the honour.