The Power of Empowerment

This is a sermon I gave at my parents church one Sunday, many years ago…


“Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may bless thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath.”

Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem:  Who do you think you are? Will you alter the world? Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?

Balian of Ibelin: Yes

WOW.  What a line: does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?  Yes.

Luke 9:1 – 6

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

The above clip that I quoted is from the movie “Kingdom of Heaven”.   This is my favorite scene from this movie, and probably one of my top 5 favorite scenes of all time.  The army that was in Jerusalem has marched out against the Muslims who were going to be laying siege to Jerusalem, and they were destroyed.  That left the city undefended.  Balian of Ibelin, played by Orlando Bloom, is the only knight left in the city.  The problem is there are no knights left to defend Jerusalem, as the bishop was so quick to point out, so Balian solves the problem by knighting every able bodied man there.  I love then the exchange after that when the Bishop asks, “does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?”  And Balian simply replies “yes.”  Whoa.  What a statement.  But it is that belief that I want to focus on today.  I want to talk about the power of empowerment.

You see, I think that all to often, we lose focus on the power of truly empowering someone.  The Oxford-American dictionary defines empower as “give (someone) the authority or power to do something, to enable (someone) to do (something), make (someone) stronger and more confident.”  Jesus was a master of empowering people.  Before Jesus sends out the disciples, he empowers them.  It is right there in verse 1 “he gave them the POWER and AUTHORITY”.  People respond to empowerment.  Take the movie “The Last Castle” for instance, in this movie, Gen. Eugene Irwin (played by Robert Redford) is put in a military prison, and the commandant of the prison is corrupt.  But Irwin empowers the prisoners; he reminds them of who they are.  There is a speech in the movie that the commandant gives, which actually ended up in the deleted scene, though they should have kept it in, but he calls the prisoners “shadows of soldiers”, he says that they “merely mark the place where a soldier once stood”.  He tears the soldiers down, and then expects them to respect and listen to him.  But Irwin knows the power of empowering others, and he reminds them that they are still soldiers because a soldier is who you are, not a uniform you wear, or a position you hold.  He empowers them, tells them who they are, and they follow Irwin.

One thing about empowerment is that it very rarely involves special training.  In the time period of the movie Kingdom of Heaven, every able-bodied man would have had some training in how to fight, but when he knights them, they receive no extra special training.  When Irwin empowers the prisoners, he doesn’t train them.  In the movie “Braveheart”, when William Wallace gives his famous “Sons of Scotland” speech, he doesn’t train them, he just empowers them, and they fight and win the battle.  When it came time for them to go out, Jesus didn’t say, “here you go, let me give you guys some special training now, and then go.”  No, he says, “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.”  But the first line is of chapter nine is “he gave them the authority and power.  This is something I think we have missed so much in today’s day and age.   We wonder why our prisons are overflowing; we wonder why more and more people are just settling for second rate.  It is because we do not empower people anymore.  You see, the church is supposed to be an empowering body.  We are supposed to empower others, you see it over and over again in the New Testaments, when people were sent out, often with little training, but just led knowing that God will give them strength.  How many lives and cities would be better if people just took the time to say to someone “hey, your better than this, you don’t need to steal, or kill, or sell your body, you are worth more than that.”  Or how much better would our schools be if we told our all through kids that they could conquer the world, we tell them this in the beginning of their education, but when they grow up, they hear it less and less.  And by the time they reach high school, they are classified as smart and able to only do smart things, or as dumb, and only can do dumb jobs.  Where do we lose this?  Where do we get from being able to be anything we want to, to only doing what society says we can?  What if Paul had said to the gentiles, “Sorry, your not Jewish, you aren’t worth salvation”?

If you are sitting there maybe thinking “ok, this is good stuff, but so what, what can I do about it?”  Let me fill you in on the so what.  Take the time to recognize and acknowledge someone’s compliments.  Give a man a true and heartfelt complement, and he will follow you to the ends of the earth.  When your son or daughter brings home a good assignment, don’t just be like “ok” make it worth their while, encourage them.  When your spouse does something nice for you, or gives you something, don’t just take it for granted, recognize it, and tell them how much you like it, even if you’ve already said it a few times because it lets them know you appreciate it.  When they are about to attempt something hard and/or dangerous, tell them they have the power to do it.  Ladies, complement your husbands, brothers and sons, and let them live a little dangerously, because that is part of what is written into their being.  Watch little boys, they will make anything into a weapon, because that is who they are.  Guys, compliment your wives, sisters and daughters, remind them that they are beautiful, because that is something written into their being.  Look at little girls, they like dressing up, and twirling for daddy.  Lets see if we can’t change the world by being a church that empowers others.  Who do we think we are, will we alter the world by empowering others?  Absolutely.

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