As Son of God from before the beginning of time, Jesus wielded unfathomable power. Yet he was born in a lowly manger and learned the carpentry trade in a backwater town. According to the apostle Paul, “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). Yet when confronted by his betrayer, he put up no fight. He told the apostle Peter, “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).
Power, then, is not always as it seems. That’s the point Malcolm Gladwell and I recently discussed with regard to his new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. I spoke with the bestselling author and staff writer for The New Yorker about why he decided to dig deeper into the famous story of David and Goliath.
“There are real limits to what evil and misfortune can accomplish,” he writes in the book, which I have also reviewed. “You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine” (274-275).
We discussed several fascinating stories, including the Huguenots in south-central France who harbored Jews during World War II. They defied the French police working for the Nazi occupiers and said, “We make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. It is contrary to the gospel teaching.” He told the back story of how he got to know Wilma Derksen, a Mennonite woman who found the courage to forgive the man who tortured and murdered her daughter. In the process we observed the striking difference between law and grace in responses to suffering.
Finally, I urge you to listen for our conversation about how authorities with power and privilege game the system against the weak. As you’ll hear from the 30-minute interview, Christians today can learn a few tricks from the civil-rights marches 50 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama. Indeed, the weapons of the Spirit triumph over the ways of the world.