Power does not naturally distribute power equitably. This is why, first and foremost, calling upon the powers to distribute power more fairly (whether government, industrial complexes, religious institutions, or business corporations) will not address the problem of power being more equitably distributed. When politicians and civic leaders get elected or into positions because they promise more equitable distribution of power, once in power, they have an idolatrous temptation to remain in power over the very people they claim to advocate for—so, they, too, will not naturally be given to share that power more equitably. As was once said, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The only place power is distributed equitably is at that Table in the gathered-church. And this is exactly what happened in the Book of Acts and in the early church . . . and which, now, should be happening in every gathered-church of strangers and unequals in every local, on every street, in every neighborhood, and within every community. This is at least one reason why the church, actually the local gathered-church, is so, so important.
Where this isn’t happening in a local church (i.e., a gathering of strangers and unequals at worship and at Table), there needs to be lament and repentance and correction in righteousness. The church (local and institutional) has so aligned with Christendom (that is, a culture that steals from Christianity just enough to control the industrial-church-complex and its own citizenry, but is formed by power-idolatries, such as ours here in the West) that, we, too, have become a power (or powers) that do not naturally distribute power equitably. But this isn’t the gospel nor the body of Christ prescribed in the New Testament. We didn't learn Christ this way (Ephesians 4:20; cf. 4:17–32).
Yet, this is the place where power is defeated (Ephesians 6:10-12; Colossians 2:15) and the place where the only power known is the crucified power of the cross of Christ. This is the place where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” (Galatians 3:8); for this is the place all, by one Spirit, have been “baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13); for “where no Greek and Jew is, that is (kai) [where there is no] circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman, but all things and in all is Messiah” (Colossians 3:11, my translation).
Given that we are subject and, too, often align ourselves, to the powers (at least the side of power we like or can identify with or the side that seems to give us power, which is an illusion of course) here (in this country), it is too natural to believe our only recourse for justice is to call upon those in power to give up power and more equitably distribute power. However, the harder work—which is God’s way in this world now that Christ Jesus has died, been raised, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, and the church, the local gathered-church is His body and presence in a community—the harder work is ecclesiastical, not simply protest, advocacy, and voting. Our church-power and the way we tend to advocate in the public square mimics the current systems of power, so it is natural to have Christian “leaders” gain power, who develop followings as a demonstration of their power, to call upon the powers of government and systems of power to do justly. So, what we have—what we end up with--is only “power” vs. “power.” But what God wants is “crucified with Christ” power among the church, that is, our local churches (rural, suburban, exurban, and urban), and in church planting (especially in the hard places, the hinterland places, the geographically “unlivable” places, the marginal places, the border-places, the places where there is lack of power).
There is no doubt in my mind. There is no way around it. The issue and problems of justice are a Table issue where the gathered-church exists. We are called to the harder task, church, where justice, that is, the place where the more equitable distribution of power can be experienced, demonstrated, and displayed.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.