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Politics, Power, Authority Faith, Prayer — an Election Day Mix

September 27, 2008
By The Rev. Theodore I. Bessey, Pastor of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

These days, much is being made about faith and politics. The candidates for the highest offices in the land are being questioned and talking about their faith in God. In this country, we have a heritage that espouses the separation of church and state, yet faith becomes a determining factor in elections. Election to high government office results in a mixture of authority and power.

There is a wonderful story in Matthew, Chapter 8, that touches on faith against a background of authority and power.

The story starts out with Jesus in Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. A Roman centurion (a high ranking officer) came to Jesus asking him to heal his sick servant. Jesus says that he will go with him but the officer says, "I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word and my servant will be healed."

The officer testifies to Jesus' authority by drawing on the example he exercises in his own command. For the centurion, his authority comes from Rome (which is Ceaser) and this gives him the power to command his soldiers. He recognizes Jesus' authority, which is given to him by God the Father to the Messiah (the savior of the world). Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah by his power over sin, sickness and death. Jesus is amazed at the centurion's faith and his servant is healed.

This story gets us thinking about authority and power. Too often they are seen as the same thing when there are differences. It is true that authority and power can be used to make things happen, hopefully for the good of all.

The difference is that authority is given and power can be acquired. Power can exist without authority yet authority will bring power. Power in itself is neutral - it can be used for good or evil.

Authority is conferred - it is given to a person by others, be that a neighborhood or a town, an institution, or social, religious or political entity.

Power, on the other hand can be seized. If a person desires power, they can find ways to acquire it. To illustrate, a person can resort to bullying and retaliation, which gives them power when others back off from their bad behavior out of fear. Or a person could receive power from being a longtime member of a Sunday school class; their power comes from their longevity. Sometimes the path to power is getting more money and more influence than the next person. History will show us how power has been seized by dictators and tyrants over the years.

When authority is conferred, it will bring power to the individual who exercises the authority. It has been said that, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Power can be addictive, a little power is not enough for some people. They have to have more and more and so they will do whatever they can to get it. This can have a very sobering effect when we think of politics and public office.

Authority and power are important considerations as we move toward the presidential election. In November, the people of America will confer on an individual the authority of the presidency. With that authority will come great power. It goes without saying that we want that power to be used for peace, justice and the common good.

The question is, "Who will we vote for?"

There has been so much in the media that tries to convince the voters one way or another who to vote for. The mud slinging has been in full force, the party politics have been in high gear. The TV and newspapers have been reporting anything and everything. Sometimes it is TMI - too much information.

And so who do we vote for? We live in troubling and difficult times. Who will do the best job as president? What can the average citizen do as they get ready to go to the polls? Stayed informed, that goes without saying. Perhaps have the courage to ask what is best for the country rather than what is best for me, and then pursue that direction.

One of the best things we as citizens can do is to pray. This is not to be taken lightly, but ask God for guidance and direction: Ask for wisdom, ask to be enlightened, ask God to help you as a voter to make the best choice.

When the election is over the praying is not over. Commit to pray for the president and America's elected leaders on a day-to-day basis. Pray that God will help them to govern wisely and justly and with compassion for all.

(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)



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