Speaking to the Soul – March 29

The arena of power

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. St Mark 15 : 1 – 5


The former American president, Theodore Roosevelt, gave a speech in 1910 in Paris to urge the United States to participate in the arena of global power, during which he said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I think many Christians, and our churches, fear being in the public arena of power. Perhaps we fear the corrupting influences of violent power, or the shame of failure. We hold back, looking for ways to act in the background, avoiding tension and trying our best to be nice. This makes us lukewarm.

Jesus encourages us to enter the arena. But his way of being in the arena transforms it. Where violent power lobs punches and accusations, the power of God in Jesus sits like a dove. He does not punch back, nor defend himself. In silence, he offers an embrace.

This amazes practitioners of violence. It leaves me wondering that if only Pilate and the chief priests could drop their egos, pride, and faith in violent power, they could embrace and be embraced by God’s love.

For today’s Body of Christ—the church—to offer that same embrace to the world, we too have to go into the arena. We need not be afraid, but we do need to be present in it differently. Friends, let us go with boldness.


God, you sent Jesus to show us that your embrace remains even in the face of every form of violence we throw at you or the world. Help us to enter the arena of public life with boldness, following you in laying aside our weapons of violence, and offer your embrace. Amen.