“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
– Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
I’m not a big fan of Ayn Rand or anything, but this is a pretty good piece of writing, and very insightful.
Human institutions exist in order to preserve and perpetuate their own existence. They need work to do, even if they have to make it for themselves out of practically nothing. Armies need enemies, traffic cops need speeders, courts need the accused, and many times they aren’t beyond doing anything they need to do to get them. And when the accused pleads “time-out” or “foul,” he’s just offering further proof for why he needs to be taken down.
They operate by that old saying: “You can’t make an omelet without ruining a few innocent lives.”
That these things are true doesn’t release us from our due obedience to human authorities (Rom. 13), but when it comes to Church government and the way she exercises the authority given to her by God in the world, she has a different example to follow. She has been warned not to model herself after the despotic and the power-hungry.
Jesus warned the apostles – “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Mark 10:42)
What does this kind of servant-leadership look like on the pastoral level, or on the sessional level, or on the presbytery level, or on the denominational level? What does it mean for leaders and those in authority to forgive as they have been forgiven and to operate with a presumption of innocence for the accused, a zeal to exercise charity, and a desire above all for justice? What does it look like when leaders care next-to-nothing about self-preservation or give not a thought to merely maintaining their own position of power?
I’m not sure we can answer all those questions here, but it is safe to say that our exercising of our God-given authority at any level should look something like the cross.
If it doesn’t, we’re doing it wrong.