Poling on power


James Poling is one of my favourite practical theologians as he takes seriously context and the need to promote liberation rather than oppression.  I am posting this tonight in response to one or two things I have become aware of recently and follows on from my last post.  Challenging abuses of power by institutions is something that is not always easy as it requires courage and a willingness to speak up on behalf of those who are vulnerable or ideally alongside them if they are able to give voice to the oppression they are suffering.

Power in its ideal form is the energy of life itself as it is organized into the relational web that includes us all.  This primal relational power is distorted through human sin by individuals and societies into abuse of power and is the cause of much human suffering.  Through resistance to the abuse of power and the work of God’s love in Jesus Christ, the human spirit is made resilient.  We search for the resilient hope of the human spirit, which can resist abuse and create new communities for the restoration of communion and freedom of self, others, and God (Poling 1991:33).

In the incarnation God comes to earth in human form.  In Jesus, who came as a baby and grew into a powerful healer and preacher, God communicates a message of love.  By loving outcasts and confronting those in power, Jesus models a form of power that is not destructive, but redemptive.  Those who perceive and follow Jesus are those who can love as he loves (Poling 1991:172).


J. N. Poling, The Abuse of Power (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991)


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