The Corruption of Power
Matthew 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and killed all the male children in Bethlehem… who were two years old or under.
As I was reading this passage, I reacted in typical revulsion at the story of Herod, who killed babies in his attempt to retain power. The story captured my attention but I could see no immediate life lesson for me. I was then struck with one particularly painful childhood memory.
When I was in elementary school, I was picked on for being overweight. I remember not being able to comprehend how other boys could be so cruel. Before you get all weepy, know that I, in turn, picked on one who was below me in the pecking order. The painful memory is of the day that in my own cruelty, I mercilessly taunted this other boy, reducing him to tears. I vividly remember the horror of realizing what I had become. Even at age seven, I could see the evil in me that had been exposed by the evil in others. I had become that which I despised.
When reading the story of Herod, it is easy to insist that power corrupts. Herod committed horrific atrocities to retain his power. I would insist however, that power did not cause Herod’s evil. It just exposed it. As hard as it is to comprehend the evil of such a man, I suspect the biggest difference between Herod and me is not the amount of evil in our flesh but in the amount of power we possessed.
I am not suggesting that I would kill babies if I had enough power but I am saying that my flesh, like Herod’s flesh, is corrupt and has the capacity for tremendous evil. What corrupt behavior would I engage in if I thought that I could get away with absolutely no consequences? I have seen the horrific things I can do when I convince myself of immunity. I know the dark deeds that reside in my flesh.
Some insist that once we come to Christ, we no longer have this evil in us. They believe that the flesh has somehow been made perfect. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away (1 Corinthians 5:17). While I am a new creation in my spirit life, I still live in this earthen vessel which is corrupt to the core. The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). Denying that my flesh is evil does not make me immune to corruption, it just blinds me to it. If I deny that I am capable of evil, I have already succumbed to blinding pride.
Am I then destined for evil deeds whenever circumstances expose my flesh nature? No, of course not. It is still my choice to follow my flesh life or my spirit life. It is only in choosing daily (and many times daily) to follow God that I can rise above the corruption of my flesh life. I am not destined for evil, but the solution does not lie in denying my capacity for it. The solution is in turning to the one who can daily deliver me from evil.