Kobe and Laying Down Power in the Church

My wife and I life in Pasadena, CA, which is the first city you come to as you travel east out of north Los Angeles.  We love it here!  And here’s one small reason: if you planned well and had decent traffic, then in the winter in LA you could ski in the morning, go to the beach in the afternoon, and watch a world-class stage production in the evening.  Amazing!

Besides how expensive it is to live here, one of the other things that I don’t like about LA is the constant chatter about the Lakers (the local basketball team, in case you didn’t know).  I love basketball, but I don’t really have a team that I root for.  Over the last few years I’ve grown to love the Clippers (LA’s other team) because they seem like they need a few more fans.  However, I’ve always, more or less, rooted against the Lakers, even before moving here.

Why?  Because I like to see new teams win sometimes!  And the Lakers have won sixteen championships!  In other words, I’m kind of tired of the same ol’, same ol’ when it comes to basketball.

It has been brought to my attention today, thanks to local news on the TV and sports-talk radio, that Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ longtime star, has re-signed with the team for two years at a reported rate of 48.5 million US dollars.  That’s a ton of cash, especially when you take into consideration the fact that Kobe hasn’t played at all this season yet due to an achilles heel injury.

The Lakers are really betting it all on Kobe with this deal.  Because they re-signed him at such a large salary, the Lakers will have less money to sign other star players.  In other words, Kobe requires such a large investment, that the Lakers will have less wiggle room under the salary cap to lure any other players to LA.

All of this reminds me of something I heard recently.  Some people from the church my wife and I attend went to Mosaix this year.  Mosaix is a global network of believers, churches, para-church groups, schools, etc. who are attempting to catalyze a “movement toward multiethnic churches in the twenty-first century for the sake of the gospel.”  During a post-conference meeting a woman from our church shared this reflection gleaned from the conference: “Every perspective (white, black, Latino, Asian, etc.) has to give up something in order for us to gain traction toward truly becoming multiethnic.”

To translate that into Matt-ese, she’s saying that if we are really going to be the body of Christ the way that God envisions it (Revelation 7.9), then we all have to lay down whatever power me might have for the benefit of everyone else.  We must stop holding onto whatever power we have (which we tend to use for ourselves and those like us) and start making space for those who are different from us.

I’m going to do something heavy-handed here.  Ready?  This is what Jesus did.  Philippians 2.6-7 says Jesus “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  And how does Paul introduce these words in Philippians 2.5?  He says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset of Christ Jesus.”


So, let me get this straight.  I’m supposed to have the same attitude that Jesus had and Jesus gave up his power for the benefit of others.  So that means in my life I’m being called by God to give up my power, my advantages, and my preferences so that others can flourish.

Dang.  That’s hard!

And the situation with Kobe is a reminder of our basic human makeup.  Left to our own devices, the vast majority of us will take as much money as we can get, even if it hurts our team and our chances of ever winning again.  Left to our own devices, we’ll not make space for others, instead will actively and subconsciously exclude people.  Left to our own devices, we’re pretty selfish from top to bottom.

So the missional call is to live like Jesus, emptying ourselves for the benefit of others.  That might mean that we have less control, we have less time, we have less say, we have less money, we have less power, and we have less influence.  But it will mean that we’re obeying the clear call from God in the Bible to put the interests of others before our own.

And that unselfish living is what our culture is hungry for.  That’s what can make us stand out from the crowd.  That’s what can help create in us lives that invite others to come to know this Jesus who changes our lives.  That’s what can help us fulfill the Great Commandment (Matthew 22.37-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20).

Let’s do this together!

Do you have any ideas of what laying down our power might look like?  How have you done it?  How have you seen it done?  What were the results?  Share with me in the comments below!