(This blog is part 2 of a series of blogs on “the Gospel and power”).
The first blog in this series addressed the “upside-down” nature of the Gospel—namely, that the kingdom of God comes through faithful, sacrificial, and loving witness; and matters of church discipline; and a documentary that focused on a movement among some Christians to influence the world by placing godly men in positions of power around the world.
The third point—putting godly men in positions of power—seems like a good idea to many.
I, however, am troubled by this idea. I am troubled because I believe that it is in direct conflict with the Gospel. In this blog, I will contend that putting Christian people in positions of power may well lead situations that conflict with the Gospel.
The aforementioned documentary went on to show that those values sometimes went ignored if/when they were transgressed. For example, when men committed acts of adultery, instead of doing the very things we should expect men of God to do, they were protected by the Christian establishment.
From the vantage point of those producing the documentary this was the height of hypocrisy. From their perspective, these Christian organizations were trying to obtain power in order to impose their social, economic, political, and moral standards on others (which to some in the secular world, appears cultic). Yet, these men of Christian ideals were not willing to live up to those very same standards when they violated them. They wanted to impose Christian values on the world, in other words, but they were not willing to follow them themselves.
Many of you may be reading this and conclude that there is nothing wrong here. These men, at least some of them, were contrite and repentant. They probably sought reconciliation. They likely tried to do the right thing.
Let’s assume for a minute that this were true in all cases. We have already established that Christian leaders need to be held to a higher ethical standard than others. Furthermore, for their own sake, and for the sake of others who have been injured by the leader’s fall from grace, and for the sake of the church’s witness to the world, these men need more help. To allow them to remain in their positions of power after a significant sin conveys the message to all that these men are to be treated differently from the rest because of their positions of power. This is precisely the opposite of what I set forth in the first blog. When leaders sin, the consequences need to be more severe.
What, in effect, is happening in these cases is that keeping men in positions of power is deemed more important than the Gospel. This might sound outrageous. But the Gospel, which includes our witness to the world, is adversely affected when Christians, especially Christians in places of power, sin.
Not only that, but allowing them to remain in positions of power sends a message to the leaders themselves that they are special and need to be treated as such. Consequently, they do not receive all of the consequences for their sins that others might. The result is that they fail to get the necessary counseling and help that they need. Instead, they retain their positions of power, and begin to live with a sense that they are above the law. Because they do not face the necessary consequences of their sin, they often continue living unscrupulously. The end result is that the very law that they are put in positions of power to impose on others does not, in effect, apply to them.
Another effect of this special treatment for those in power is that sin itself is often minimized. This is used to justify the softer punishment for the leader who has sinned. In order to minimize the sin, however, the victim is often pushed aside. After all, giving the victim the necessary care they deserved, would only validate the severity of the sin.
Why do good Christian leaders in positions of power compromise their own core Christian values? More importantly, how can the Church not stand up and object when this happens?
The answer is, of course, complex, but a key catalyst is the conviction that it is deemed more important to have such men in positions of power, than it is to impose Christian discipline. In other words, the desire to have men who espouse Christian ideals in power is deemed more important than having men who actually live them out on a consistent basis.
There is another, and more significant, flaw with this approach to power. Namely, that it is in direct conflict with the Gospel of Christ.