Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Power, Privilege, and Squelching the Spirit

Posted on 18 Dec 2014 in Christianity, Church, Culture | Comments Off on Power, Privilege, and Squelching the Spirit

No, it’s not. It is a highly sophisticated interlocking block system.

That’s the explanation from Will Ferrell’s character in The Lego Movie. His son is messing with the legos and Ferrell is desperately trying to put everything in it’s proper place.

He was tired of everyone messing with his stuff.

The ultimate point of Ferrell’s character is to glue everything into place so it can’t move.

He liked order. He hated uncertainty. Everything had to be in exactly the right place.

He sounds a lot like the religious leaders in Acts 5.

The Reading.

Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.lightstock_167786_medium_justin_

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Acts 5:17-26

Keeping a watchful eye.

The Jewish ruling council has finally noticed the early church enough to take action. They were worried. They were afraid of losing power. They had set up a system for them to experience blessing and it was being challenged. They could tell that they weren’t going to be in power much longer, so they had to act.

They were jealous of the apostles. But what does that mean? They were zealous for their success. The church, they thought, was becoming the next big thing and they were afraid that they weren’t going to be able to cash in on it (literally and figuratively). They wanted the success and notoriety that the early church had, not because they wanted to authentically follow God, but because they like the status of power and privilege.

So they sent them to jail. Except, it wasn’t a Roman jail, because they hadn’t committed a crime against Rome. They were in, as the text says, a ‘public jail.’ They were in lockup. The Sadducees wanted to be able to keep an eye on them. They were in public lockup so the ruling powers could ‘keep them in line.’ It was a power play. The Sadducees and ruling council thought they could exert their public power to control and manipulate the presence and movement of the Spirit of God.

But of course God intervenes. His Spirit and his movement cannot be stopped. It cannot be manipulated. It cannot be coerced.

The apostles were free and continued proclaiming the power and message of new life. Things didn’t have to be like this. There were other options to promoting and living in a corrupt power system.

God’s new movement gives us new options. The church, when it is faithful, follows the voice and call of the Spirit into new and uncharted territories. She leads us faithfully into Gospel proclamation and faithful living.  The ruling leaders didn’t approve, but God doesn’t need the approval of human hearts and desires.

Which group are we?

Our own modern church has often struggled here. We like power, we like control, we like knowing the outcomes. The American church has sat in an area of prestige, privilege, and power for decades. We’ve grown accustomed to having things look a certain way.

It’s time for a wakeup call.

It doesn’t look that way anymore.

The cultural landscape is different.IMG_0891

The churches we grew up in and have come to love have gone by the wayside. And we must decide which side of history we want to be on. Will we adapt, be open to the leading of the spirit and join in the new movement? Will we, in spite of persecution (real or imagined) continue to be bold and fearless? Will we show an openness and generosity to the Spirit than cannot be contained?

Or will we, like the Sadducees and religious leaders demand the old way? Will we make demands that people become like us, stop innovation, keep quiet, and squelch the new movement of the Spirit?

The choice is ours. May we be as bold and as fearless as the apostles and in the face of adversity, side with the Spirit.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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