Integrity

After an interlude for Easter and other things, we return to the theme of power, leadership, sin and redemption.

In 1887, Lord Acton said, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. " He wasn't the first to say something similar - William Pitt the Elder, said, in a speech to the House of Lords in 1770: "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it". And we can see the evidence, throughout history, of what happens when individuals have power - from Roman Emperors such as, to take particularly unpleasant examples, Nero or Commodus, through to our own day, with the somewhat less outrageous but still odious example set by many politicians.

I'm not, and never have been, in a position of real power - and I hope fervently never to be so. Perhaps that means I can't really understand what drives someone who does have power. I can't understand the likes of politicians, who (apparently) commit some act of wrongdoing and then, when 'found out' deny it, increasingly forcefully and desperately as more and more revelations and evidence come to light. Why fight the inevitable? Do they hope to cling to power and influence? Do they hope that, sooner or later, their pursuers will give in and let them off, or that, by some miracle, the evidence will disappear and everyone will forget it ever happened, so they can get back to the exercise of power? I can't remember it ever happening.

And, whilst all this is going on, their reputation sinks ever further, until it gets as low as can be imagined, at which point, typically, they are either sacked or resign. Wouldn't it be refreshing if one of these 'characters', on being caught, 'held up his hands' straight away, said 'It was me, I did it, I was wrong, and I'm sorry.' We all do things wrong, either deliberately, or by mistake, so none of us is really in a position to condemn anyone else. But, what really 'gets my goat' is those who, once caught, try to wriggle out of taking responsibility for their actions.

And yet, when I look at Christianity, the emphasis is so different. 'For all have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God,' as it says in Romans 3:23. We Christians are (or should be!) all too aware of our shortcomings and ought to be ready and willing to confess them, to each other and to God, seeking forgiveness and seeking to turn over a new leaf and do better in future. And then, as Romans 3:24 goes on to say: 'and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.'

The Book of Proverbs says:

There are six things which the LORD hates,

Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:

Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

 And hands that shed innocent blood,

A heart that devises wicked plans,

 Feet that run rapidly to evil,

A false witness who utters lies,

And one who spreads strife among brothers.
(Proverbs 6:16-19)

That sounds to me not unlike the character of a lot of our supposed 'leaders'. It strikes me that, whatever your views on Christianity, you'd be hard-pressed to disagree with the sentiment that our society could do with some more of the moral values which are supposed to be espoused by those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

I have to qualify that by saying that none of us is perfect, and can claim to be without fault. But, at least, with God's help, we're trying. I'm also not saying that those values are exclusive to Christians either - I have many friends, including those who would profess to be atheists, who put some Christians to shame!

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2021