Seeking a Generation with Compassion

The people and systems that control power in any society are those who value the social, economic, political, governmental, and academic framework that their power is housed in. Those in power promote behaviors that cooperate with or yield to their positions of authority. This is the way that most powerful people and systems maintain their control and anyone who attempts to go against them is faced with strong opposition from those with clout on many fronts.

This understanding of how those with power solidify and maintain control of it has been in force throughout the history of human civilization. However, there have always been periodic challenges to those people and systems that wish to keep their longstanding positions of power intact. In fact, these periodic challenges to powerful people and systems are the normal way that power is passed from one entity to another. Power is rarely given over willingly.

I wonder how much we consider just how intrinsic this power dynamic is in every phase of our lives? Think about how the power dynamic is experienced within our families, at school, at work and in the leadership of our local communities. On some level, in each of these circles of social interaction, there is a dynamic of maintaining control by the people who are in positions of power directly or indirectly. This power dynamic also happens with the people of God who hold positions of power in religious organizations.

What often gets lost by the people who engage in the power dynamic to retain control of their authority, is their sense of compassion for others, especially those whom they have control over. That unfortunate fact has had a profoundly negative effect in our world.

Every corner of the globe has felt the piercing pain of an increasingly callous set of powerful people and entities who are desperately holding onto their influence.

The people of God have also engaged in the same power dynamic and often, show the same loss of compassion in the process. This religious power dynamic can be seen in the Bible reading for this Sunday from Matthew 11:16, 25-30.

In it we can see Jesus comparing his present generation of religious and spiritual leaders to sets of children in the marketplace gathered to play familiar games. Each set of children shouts to the other to play the roles of celebration, while the other set of children want to play the roles of mourning, but each set of children stubbornly refuses to play the game of the other.

It is a power dynamic different from the one I described earlier, yet it has striking similarities drawn from Jesus’ proclamations and critique of the powerful religious people where he was preaching his message, teaching his disciples, and answering an important question from his cousin, John the Baptizer, who was in prison but sent his disciples to ask of Jesus. As you prepare to read this Sunday’s passage, please read verses 1-15 of chapter 11 as background information that provides the context for verses 16-19 and 25-30.

Discover what the particular power dynamic Jesus was comparing the generation of his time to. Then, discern how verses 25-30 give a divine revelation concerning Jesus’ characterization of those who are in power, compared to those who they have power over, in the sight of God. Finally, in what way does Jesus invite all who to come to God through him? Amen.

Copyright © 2018 First United Methodist Church, Downers Grove. Please report any problems to