One hundred and thirty one years ago, on April 5, 1887, a historian named Lord Acton wrote a letter to the Archbishop of the Church of England, Mandell Creighton. In his letter Acton addressed what he saw as a tendency of the Archbishop to overlook the “sins of the past” - the abuses and corruptions of past popes. In telling the stories of the past accomplishments of these church leaders Acton noted that the abuses and corruptions were conveniently left out of their narrative - revisionist history at its best. It was as if by virtue of their power they were subject to a different set of rules... held to a different standard... their behavior more easily excused by a convenient moral relativism which applied one set of morality to the common folk and another to those in power.
Acton saw the danger and knew that if leaders were excused from moral responsibility because of their positions of power that we were going to find ourselves a party to our own demise as a culture, a church, a people who would be willing to sell our soul for the taste of power. This is why Acton wrote one of the most powerful lines ever penned on the issue of power:
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely
It is impossible in 2018 not to notice the parallels between Acton’s world and our own. Our children see the exercise of power by men and women in positions of authority and wonder why their morality doesn’t line up with some basic tenets that they are taught in elementary school: don’t bully, don’t use hurtful words, treat everyone with dignity - including the opposite sex, respect those in positions of authority and even the golden rule to treat others like you want to be treated.
Our interest at Grace Point Church is not whether the church should legislate morality for the world. We believe it should not. We do not believe there is a future for the church to be the great dispenser of morality but rather there is a future where the church can be the place where people can see Jesus and work out together what it means to follow him.
We believe Jesus has given us a dramatically different view of how one should both use and wield power in the world today. Jesus, who one could argue, had a world-renowned type of power, did not use his power to corrupt or abuse but rather to do something quite different. And this is our interest as a church: to see how Jesus used his power and learn what he teaches about how we can use our power in the places of influence we find ourselves today.
This nine part series called “Power” will run from April 1 to June 3 and we hope can change the narrative on how we see power. We’d love to have you be part of the conversation - Sunday mornings at 10am.