Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
The problem of power
Rev. Jessica Vazquez Torres
Matthew 4:1 (CEB)
Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him.
Reflection: Power. We struggle with how to use it responsibly. When asked about power, many people respond with a paraphrase of Lord Acton’s words: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In the wilderness, it is power that the devil entices Jesus to use for his own gain. Jesus resists temptation by reminding the devil that power belongs only to God.
History is littered with evidence of our nation’s misuses of power. Think of the numerous exercises of military and diplomatic power that might be deployed to pursue a ‘peace’ that advances US economic and political agendas.
But it’s not just our government. We, too, get wrapped up in the power games of the United States. We buy into the invitation to think of our safety, security, and needs at the expense of everyone else’s. We fail to question policies or laws that target our ‘enemies’ because we are locked in an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Just as the devil whispered to Jesus, politicians, preachers, and other influencers sell us selfish and ‘redemptive’ notions of war.
How are Christians living in the most powerful nation in the world to respond? Perhaps, like Jesus, we are invited not to reject power but to remember that power belongs to God. God gives us power not to advance our own interests, but to seek a world in which all of creation is free. The question is: Will we resist the devil?
Action: Resist the devil the one shrouded in policies that normalize war and instigate nativist self-protection. Call your federal and state legislators today. Tell them to stop feeding the military and law enforcement machinery that targets brown, black, immigrant, and LGBTQ bodies.
Prayer: God of all power, we confess that we misuse and waste the power you have given us. Strengthen us to resist the whisperings of the devil’s temptation to selfishness. Remind us that power belongs to you, for the sole purpose of ushering in a world where all thrive. Amen.
Rev. Vazquez Torres works in antiracism, anti-oppression, and cultural competency. A 1.5-Generation ESL Queer Latina of Puerto Rican descent, she holds a BA in Criminal
Justice, an MDiv from Christian Theological Seminary, and an MTS from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. When not on a plane, she attempts to become a bread baker, cultivates community with her spouse, Laura, and sings songs badly with full abandon.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.