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For as long as history has been recorded, society/culture has, by and large, accepted the precept that might makes right.  Power, raw power has been seen as something that should be exercised for the benefit of the wielder.  Armies, economic leverage, and intimidation were the common exercises of power by people, governments, and groups from before and during Jesus’ day and they are still today.  Corporations, the rich, military and political leaders all wield blunt power, economic pressure, intimidation and violence as threats for their own benefit.  We see it today as political leaders and bosses wield power to thwart democratic elections and to gather wealth, resources and privileges for themselves and their friends.   We see it where little and big clowns threaten each other with the size of their nuclear buttons.  The manufacturers of firearms and their lobbyists use their power to maintain economic benefits at the expense of the lives of children and the innocent. And so it goes.

But there are different ways one can look at power.  Several years ago I was studying American Kenpo, which is a style of martial arts.  One of the interesting facts of this form is that, unlike other martial arts, the motions are both circular and angular not linear like taekwondo, where you attack straight at someone using powerful blows against your opponent.  In Kenpo, the objective is not to meet power with an opposing power, but to use the force of another’s blow against them by redirecting it. Thus power comes not from force but from turning another’s force/violence against them.  The harder and stronger an opponent comes against you, the more he gives you an advantage over him.

Similar to this are the methods of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. who used non-violence as power.  These two freedom fighters chose to eschew violence and instead use peaceful means to resist and battle against injustice.  

Martin Luther King reflected often on his understanding of nonviolence. He described his own ‘‘pilgrimage to nonviolence’’ in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, and in subsequent books and articles. ‘‘True pacifism,’’ or ‘‘nonviolent resistance,’’ King wrote, is ‘‘a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.’’ Both ‘‘morally and practically’’ committed to nonviolence, King believed that ‘‘the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom’’ King called the principle of nonviolent resistance the ‘‘guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.’’

Holy Week is an opportune time to remind ourselves of the principles of Jesus and that ultimately, it was his nonviolent approach that God vindicated and made victorious over the powers and principalities of the world.  Ultimately, love is the greatest power in all creation and the source of renewal of all.