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Pointers along the way #210

Power corrupts
- Jacob Ninan

There is a saying in the world that says, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!" We usually associate this with politicians and others in positions of authority (including in spiritual circles). But have we seen it for ourselves with regards to our spiritual life?

How power corrupts is to make us think that we are now above certain rules and regulations which apply to other 'ordinary' people. We think that at our level of spiritual maturity we can handle things in a different way than what others are restrained to. We may tell ourselves that we understand the 'spirit' of the matter and that we are not to be restrained by the letter of the law! We can take certain liberties with the law because we have a special relationship with God!

Do we imagine that God needs us so much because we are so useful to Him that He would have to overlook our 'little' lapses? Perhaps we imagine that in our 'higher' levels of responsibility and activity we cannot be constrained by rules and restrictions that 'ordinary' Christians have to follow? Perhaps we can even preach high standards to others without batting an eyelid even though we know very well that we are personally not keeping those standards?

What is happening? We have fallen a prey to Satan's devices. He went to Jesus and said, "If You are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread" (Mt.4:3). Perhaps this was a suggestion to Jesus to test and verify His authority and power as the Son of God. But perhaps this was also a subtle suggestion to use His special position as the Son of God to bypass the restrictions placed on 'ordinary' people! Of course Jesus didn't fall for this.

Another great example we have in this context is Paul. Instead of taking liberties with the law because of his superior position, he took on himself extra rules and restrictions. Think of how he decided not to eat meat on any particular occasion if a brother watching him was going to be led astray (1Co.8:13). He had no problem with eating meat (v.7,8). But he would restrict himself for the sake of others. Think of how he worked and supported himself in order to preach the gospel without cost to the others? (1Co.9:18). These are just a couple of examples to show how Paul lived sensitively, going beyond what was strictly required of him.

What then is the anti-dote to the poison of corruption that comes with power? To recognise the principle, "Others may, but we may not." The more 'power' we come to in our spiritual life, the more accountable we become towards God. Jesus made it very clear that those who have been given much, from them more would be required (Lk.12:48). Judgment will be stricter for those who know more (Lk.12:47,48). Every failure will require deeper repentance. Let us also remember that God has no favourites. Even a Moses can be put aside.