Power and corruption
You have probably heard this statement, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” No doubt you can think of examples of people who acquired power and used it in a corrupt manner. The ones I think of first are Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Hitler was responsible for the Holocaust which killed 17 million people, including almost 6 million Jews. Stalin’s policies resulted in the deaths of millions and after World War II the Soviet Union seized control of many nations in Eastern Europe. The lives of these two are clear evidence that possession of power leads to corruption and a rejection of traditional standards of right and wrong.
Their lives would be evidence of this except for one fact. God possesses absolute power. That means he should be absolutely corrupt, but in fact we see that God is absolutely free of corruption. That shows that it could not have been the acquisition of power that led Hitler and Stalin to commit the evil they were responsible for.
Perhaps the truth is not that power corrupts but that it frees people to express the corruption that already exists in their natures. Someone without power can possess the desire to do evil but be unable to express that desire openly because of fear of the consequences. He may be forced to live a life that is outwardly moral when in fact he would commit terrible acts if he could get away with it. What kind of lives might Hitler and Stalin have lived if they hadn’t become dictators of their countries?
In his early years Hitler wanted to become an artist and applied for admission to the Vienna Academy of the Arts and was rejected. What if he had been accepted? Perhaps he would never have become involved with the Nazi party and if he were well known today it would be as an artist.
Stalin was once a student in a Russian Orthodox seminary, studying to become a priest. He also began writing poetry at this time. Perhaps if he had graduated he would have spent his life as a priest and been known to everyone as Father Dzhugashvili. (Dzhugashvili was his original name. He later adopted the name Stalin, which means “man of steel”.) Or he might have continued to write poetry and become famous for that. Either way he wouldn’t have acquired the reputation for evil that he has today.
If Hitler and Stalin had not acquired political power it is likely that they would not have been considered evil by those who knew them. But how would God have viewed them at their final judgment?
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
If God judges by our hearts rather than by our actions, isn’t it possible that many of the people we encounter may be much worse than Hitler and Stalin but have never had the power to express the evil in their hearts for fear of the consequences? And isn’t it also possible that we are just as evil but have never expressed this evil in our actions because we have lacked the power to do so? When I consider some of thoughts I have entertained I believe that if the circumstances of my life had been different I could have become a Hitler or a Stalin. God has kept me from that fate first by not allowing me the power to put my thoughts into action, and then by allowing me to hear the gospel and to repent and put my faith in Jesus Christ. As a result of my faith in Christ all my sins have been forgiven and I have been born again as a member of God’s family.
Consider your own lives. What would you be like if you possessed the power that Hitler and Stalin did and no one could stop you if you decided to do something that was evil?