Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Problem with Power

One of the dangerous temptations in a sinful world is the temptation to trust in power. This can be physical power, verbal power, or political power. The idea is that if you are strong enough, you can force people to do what you want. But whenever Christians attempt to use power to promote Christianity, it inevitably fails. The reason for this is, we are not interested in intimidating people into going along with what we teach. We want to convince people to genuinely put their faith in Christ and honestly want to serve Him. This cannot be produced by force. Now there is a place for Christians to work for justice in the world and to work for good laws. But this is a thing that is very limited in scope. Martin Luther likened it to a muzzle on a wild animal. It does not change the nature of the animal, but it keeps it from biting you. There is a need for the existence of a certain degree of muzzling in society. It keeps back chaos so people can go about their business. But it cannot produce real Christianity. It has been said that you cannot legislate morality. Now part of the problem with this statement is that morality can be understood two different ways. If by morality we mean justice, basic principles of right and wrong, it is hard to see what else we do legislate. We believe something is wrong, and we make a law against it. But if by morality we mean true character that does what is right intentionally, it is true we cannot legislate that. Now there is a disagreement on whether some moral principles are a matter of justice or character. But we can only force external obedience.

God has and has always had unlimited power (Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:17; Romans 4:17). But in order to accomplish redemption, God the Son had to humble Himself and become a human being and undergo a criminal's death (Philippians 2:5-11; John 1:1-18; Hebrews 2:9-18). As result, He paid the whole price for sin (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and offers salvation to all those who will humble themselves and trust totally in His work for them (Philippians 3:2-11; Romans 4:2-5; Ephesians 2:8,9). This fits into the broader Scriptural theme that to be humbled is to be exalted and that loss is gain (Luke 18:9-17; Matthew 16:24-26; Mark 10:42-45). And the question comes, are Christians approaching the world in this way, or are we more interested in the exercise of power to enforce our point of view? And if we try to play the world's game by its rules, can we expect to win? And if we do nothing but try to uphold justice, we ourselves will be condemned by that justice. But instead, we need to reach out to people with God's love, for only it can truly change people (1 John 4:7-21; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Galatians 6:9,10).  

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