166 Power Corrupts!

If there is one conclusion that has to be drawn from not only my personal experiences, but also that of others with different backgrounds, stories and faiths, it is that power inevitably, and seemingly without exception, corrupts those who are ushered into it.

In some cases the corruption is manifested in the obvious ways of dictatorial and tyrannical behavior and abuse of their position for their own personal benefit. With others, the corruption takes place in the far more subtle way of compromise with the status quo of the silent majority in order to preserve the position: Former convictions and beliefs are being compromised for the sake of personal security and preservation of position and power.

While this may not be any great revelation, but simply an observation, there are implications related to this phenomenon, concerning the history of Christendom or Christianity per se, that only occurred to me in that shape last night: Another aspect of the vast difference between Christianity in the years ranging from 30 A.D. until 313, in which the Roman emperor Constantine declared it to be "okay" for anyone to be a Christian, and its role in the history that followed.

Before Christianity became officially recognized, it was actually dangerous to be a Christian. Anyone professing to be a Christian for the first 3 centuries of the existence of that faith was daily risking their lives by adhering to the teachings of Jesus. They were members of an ill-reputed sect (Acts 28:22), and the penalty for membership was often no less than a cruel public execution.
It was guaranteed back then, that anyone who would hold on to that faith until death, would also receive the promised crown of life (Rev.2:10).

Paul even went as far as saying that one could not really be a Christian without suffering persecution (2Tim.3:12).

And for nearly 3 centuries, the enemies of Christ tried to stomp out this new religion until Satan finally must have realized that it was useless, and a new tactic occurred to him: "If you can't lick'em, join'em!"

Within a few relatively short years, Christianity became something totally different, if not in some cases the actual opposite of what it had been until then.
The formerly persecuted sect became the official state religion, and the greatest proof in history of that sad fact and observation as stated above: power corrupts.

Religious minorities of often simply other variations of the Christian faith that didn't adhere to all the countless new dogmas and traditions of the Roman Catholic church that were not found in the original teachings of Christ were persecuted with the same cruelty by their "brethren" that their predecessors had experienced at the hands of the Romans.

To be a "Christian" from then on meant to be one of the in-crowd, part of the established majority, not a sufferer of persecution for his faith, but often a persecutor of others of different faiths. To be a Christian now meant something completely different than what it had meant for the original Christians of the first 3 centuries. To remain a believer until their dying day simply meant to be enjoying the privileges of power and status of the rest of society's hotshots, barely deserving the "crown of life" Jesus had promised to those who were going to bear persecution and slander for His sake until their dying day.
Of course, there have been numerous exceptions of outstanding Christians who did not conform to the status quo of the new officially recognized version of their faith, who left their home countries in order to fulfill Christ's commandment to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," often to be persecuted and martyred there by the very souls they were trying to save.
But as for the vast body of what was hence called "Christendom," it went on to become the single greatest reason why a large percentage of seeking, honest minds and good people refuse to believe in a God Who would have fathered and initiated such a religion. The official representatives of Christianity became those who defied the command - among many others - of Christ to "judge not that ye be not judged (Mt.7:1)," and created the brand of religious bigotry Paul addresses in the 2nd chapter of Romans, summarized by the verdict: "'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' as it is written" (Rom.2:24).

Of course, it's natural to want to avoid persecution. It's natural to want to blend in and be accepted, accumulate recognition, to want to be popular. But it can also be dangerous, because if the sort of convictions are being lost in the process that once made you stand out and apart from the "norm" and made you the salt of the earth, then what did all the popularity in the world get you?

It's normal and only human to want to reign in the here and now, as well as there and then. But is it realistic? Aren't those who are promised to reign with Him those who suffer with Him (2Tim.2:12)? Isn't it so that there's no rose without a thorn, no crown without a cross?

Isn't it still so that the path unto life is narrow, and few there be that find it (Mt.7:14)? That "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few," (1Sam.14:6) in other words, God still stubbornly refuses to be impressed by numbers?
- And that the world is still waiting for people to really make a difference and resemble the way Jesus and His disciples truly lived, and refuse to let power corrupt them?

...Just a few thoughts to take with you on your way up to the top of the hill...

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