Power and authority are not to oppress and keep others down, they are to bless and build others up. ... These qualities make a great nation, Smith says.
God's declaration to Abram in Genesis 12:2 is very familiar to most of us: "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great."
If we keep reading, however, we discover in Genesis 12:3 that the purpose of God's covenant with Abraham was not to bless him and his descendants alone, but to bless "all the families of the earth" through them.
Thus, God reveals an eternal principle that we often and conveniently forget: God blesses people so that they may bless others.
Regretfully, and sometimes tragically, we conclude that God's blessings are for our own selfish gain. We believe somehow that we (or ours) are entitled, that we are better or more deserving than others.
This lie manifests itself in all kinds of "-isms" that curse, condemn and victimize others.
We forget that our blessings are undeserved and unmerited gifts of grace. They are to be shared and used to help others.
Indeed, God's blessings are sufficient for all our needs. Yet, many experience life without basic necessities. We build bigger barns while others go hungry.
The covenant in Jesus offers the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
In Mark 10, Jesus declared that power and authority are not to be used to lord over others, but rather to serve others. In Matthew 5, He calls us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
The Apostle Paul, in Galatians 5, concludes that freedom is not a license to do whatever you want, but rather through love an opportunity to serve others.
Jesus embodied the eternal truth that blessing is to be used for the benefit of others.
Power and authority are not to oppress and keep others down, they are to bless and build others up. Freedom is not to be wasted on pursuing selfish desires, but directed toward freeing others. These qualities make a great nation (people).
So it is with horror and disbelief that we see individuals and groups demean and lash out against others. We shudder at white supremacism, religious terrorism and other hate groups.
These worldviews mock the biblical view that all men and women are created in the image of God and the psalmist's proclamation in Psalm 139 that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God.
So, how must we respond?
First, we must hear and legitimize the cries and concerns of those who have been oppressed and victimized. We must defend the defenseless, pray for their healing and seek justice for all.
Second, we must acknowledge that whatever blessing, favor and advantage we have been given in life is a gift of grace meant to bless. We must repent where we have "lorded" power and advantage over others and selfishly built bigger barns for our insatiable appetites. Instead, we must learn to share, give and bless others that they might have opportunities as well.
Finally, we pray for our enemies and those who seek to do us harm. This in no way minimizes the abuse or victimization of others. Praying for our enemies does not negate the pursuit of what is right and just. It simply reminds us they too are made in the image of God and only by God's grace is their transformation possible.
Let us be reminded that our blessings are given as opportunities to bless and serve "all the families of the earth."
Wade Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church of Norman, Oklahoma. A version of this article first appeared on FBC's blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @PastorWadeSmith.