Throughout history we see dictators and rulers clinging on to power. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and the many modern day dictators have used the power at their disposal to stay on in power and eliminate opposition to their rule. The words of Lord Acton, himself a Roman Catholic, but writing a piece critical of the crimes of popes and kings from the medieval era, come to mind,
‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.’
There is something intoxicating about power, something that fuels your ego and diminishes the values of others around you that makes you want to hold on to it. Call it a psychopath at work or a normal man gone berserk, authoritarian power wielded by man is unpleasant and a nightmare for society. Power that comes from popularity and money is another example that we see in the glamor-world popularized by Hollywood and show-biz.
Yet when we read about Christ, what a difference!
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Philippian 2:5-8)
Unlike the power-mongers from this world, Jesus truly owns authority as being the creator of this world. He did not receive his power from the faithful followers and the worshipping masses. He has always had power, yet chose to lay it aside when he became man and was found as an ordinary human being on this earth. In Christ’s example we see one who underwent an extreme transformation from being the greatest to one being despised, mocked, rejected and crucified.
What motivated him? First, it was an act of obedience to God. It is inconceivable that God would want men (who are given power unlike Christ) to continue in a state of inflated egos and authoritarian pride. A time comes even for the greatest of men to step down, if not just to remind oneself that all we possess in terms of authority and power is a robe that we temporarily wear while living on this earth.
Secondly, it was an act of love on the part of Christ- to consider in all humility the need of the other. Jesus’ act of stepping down was necessary to effect salvation for all mankind. The fallacy of dictatorial rule is that it sets aside the principle of love for your brethren and is aimed at self-preservation and self-exaltation.
Third, it was meant to be a precedent for us to follow. To defy the tendency to cling on to power and disrobe the authority that has been vested upon us- be it stepping down from positions when God asks us to, tolerating a bruising of our egos or bearing unjust persecution in all humility is to demonstrate Christ-like behavior.
When Pope Benedict made history by resigning from his papal position a few years ago, he did something that was unheard of and unprecedented but very much what a disciple of Christ would do- stepping down in obedience to the Lord.
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- LESSONS FROM BALAK