There are two human traits that seem to be immutable—that there are those who want power over others, and there are those who want to be ruled by others. What I want to show is how both of these traits are corrupted by weakness in human character. These trait then become carnal and even demonic. It’s the very opposite of how the kingdom of heaven works.
We find a story in Matthew 20 where John and James apparently get their mother to ask Jesus to have her sons rule with Him, one sitting on His right hand, the other on His left. Of course, the other ten were indignant because they wanted this prestige and power themselves (see Matt.20:20-24). Here’s Jesus’ reply:
25 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, called them to his side and said, “Kings and those with great authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, like tyrants. 26 But this is not your calling. You will lead by a completely different model. The greatest one among you will live as the one who is called to serve others, 27 because the greatest honor and authority is reserved for the one with the heart of a servant. 28 For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served but to serve and give his life in exchange for the salvation of many.” (Matt.20:25-28 TPT*)
First, notice that Jesus is saying that rulers in this world will use authority oppressively as tyrants. The more power you give a ruler in this world, the more tyrannical they will eventually become. We see this evidenced throughout human history. This is exactly why God warned Israel about having a king over them (see 1 Sam.8:5-22). Here’s just a small excerpt:
11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. …. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. (1 Sam.8:11, 16 NIV*)
This also reveals the other form of corruption of the human soul, that people want such a ruler to solve every problem for them.
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Sam.19:20 NIV)
But the more power we give them, the more enslaved we become to them.
Of course, we do needs leaders, and there is a government of heaven, which leads us to Jesus’ second point.
Jesus is saying that His leadership does not force others by His power but by serving out of His other-centered, self-giving love. And when we experience God’s self-giving love, our response is to do the same for others.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor.5:14-15 NIV*)
This form of government actually works. However, nothing will work well unless both the rulers and those being ruled are first ruled by God, for it’s the fruit of the Spirit that makes this possible (see Gal.5:22-23).
A country not ruled by such servant-leadership is a country that will progressively experience more tyranny.
Our nation’s Constitutional framers understood that many people wouldn’t be ruled by God, so they mitigated the danger by having checks and balances to keep power away from those ruling over us. I think it’s been conclusively proven that the more power we’ve given them since then (because we want a “king” over us to fight our battles for us), the more our government becomes tyrannical and oppressive.
This is precisely why we declared our independence from the King of Great Britain in the first place. Just read the Declaration of Independence.
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. ” (excerpt)
Sadly, it didn’t take very long before we starting following the same pattern, giving more power to our government rulers. If not for the brilliance of the Constitution, and the occasional expression of other-centered love practiced by some exceptional leaders at critical times, we would be far worse off now than any tyranny we broke away from.
Beloved, our hope should never be in what politicians promise us. It can only ever be in the exercise of other-centered, self-giving love being expressed by both the rulers and those being ruled. This is how heaven works, and our job as Jesus’ Church is to express “the way of heaven” on the earth. Not by power or coercion, but by other-centered love.
This is why Socialist ideologies never work and are actually evil, for they put all the power in the hands of those who rule over us. And absolute power always corrupts absolutely. Haven’t we learned this lesson yet? Why do we keep making this same mistake, over and over again, giving rulers power, hoping they can fix our problems for us and then expecting different results?
Of course, we’ll continue on this tragic path if we believe the lie. However, this truth will always lead us to freedom instead of tyranny.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:11-12 NIV*)