"As they left the council (having been flogged to bring home the point they should shut up about Jesus), they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name." (Acts 5:41)
King Senacharib will sack Jerusalem and lay out his wrath upon all the Judahites that resist him. The proof is in the pudding, just look what his armies have already done to so many other tribes and kingdoms - many of them larger and more powerful than Judah. Their undefeated record is laid out before King Hezekiah and his closest advisors to convince them to yield quietly. In the process they are warned not to gain false-hope from their god, since Senacharib's armies have already overcome so many other gods. The living God of Abraham, and Isaac, and of Jacob is mocked. How will God (and God's people) respond.
In a similar manner, coercive power is used against the apostles (threats and even floggings) with the goal of gaining their submission through intimidation.
This is the way of the "World-as-it-is". Power does what it can, and the weak must accept it, or face destruction.
Notice how in neither story do God's people become co-opted by this way of thinking/being. Hezekiah's Judah does not rally under their King to an unexpected military victory, repelling coercive force by coercive force. Neither do the apostles leave their torturers vowing revenge.
This is because our Living God is not limited by the World-as-it-Is. God has a vision for the World-as-it-shall-be. You and I are a part of that vision. It is a vision that is already constructed, yet not quite completed; and, in it all things - even coercive power itself are being remodelled and returned to their original glory. By the powerful grace of God we are given a new model of power; no longer is it a scarce commodity that must be hoarded and weaponized. Rather, power is revealed to be relational and distributive. Powerful people and nations are regarded not as threats but as allies.
All of this is possible because God has revealed - most clearly in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - Holy Power to be relational, not hierarchal. God is not fundamentally "over us" but "with us".
This changes everything. As hope, peace, joy and love are multiplied and amplified throughout creation new paths become possible. Victims and torture survivors turn from focussing on retribution and revenge to seeking justice through tending to the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. They are set free by their delight at being joined to the Suffering God even in their suffering.
Where does this world-changing reality invite/dare you to go today? For me, it is making it easier (day by day) to humble myself and seek reconciliation through apologies. Instead of seeking to be right at all costs and getting caught on hamster-wheels of self-justification, I am increasingly able to seek restoration of relationships.
Where does our world-as-it-is roar taunts of intimidation in the hopes of gaining our quiet surrender? How will you choose to respond?
God-in-Relationship; three-in-one; Teach us to let go of all temptations towards coercive power. Humble us and grant us grace to endure the cost of bearing a more holy power into this world, that we may taste in the world-as-it-shall-be, Your Kingdom Come. Amen.