Taking a Stand Against Corrupt Leadership
Mark 11:18, 14:1-2
John Adams said, “If ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Throughout the course of history this has been true. Time after time, in country after country, vain, aspiring, corrupt persons (not always males) have risen to commandeer the highest seats in government. One by one they have met their doom. Their aspirations grew too great to be sustained, and they fell. Dictator after dictator, evil king after evil king, corrupt politician after corrupt politician has risen to control a state, a nation, an empire, only to see it come crashing down, aspirations fallen into the dust. Patriots either aided in the downfall or came forward afterward to help pick up the pieces.
In his poem Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelly tells of such a leader. The poet meets a man who tells him of a desert where two stone legs and a head lie in the sand. Inscribed on the pedestal supporting the legs are the words:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty and despair!”
Nothing else remains except endless sand.
Shelly’s Ozymandias believed his might was so overwhelming that he would rule forever. He made the same mistake all others who have ruled from might, fear, and intimidation have made; they overestimated their strength. In time, experienced patriots arose to overthrow them, or outlasted them and took control once they fell of their own weight, or met whatever fate divine forces had in store for them.
Jesus faced the same situation. Vain and aspiring men ruled in Rome, and exercised their power to control much of the then-known world. They inspired other vain and aspiring men to take control of parts of the empire, including Palestine. Pilate in his fortress, Herod on his throne, Judah’s religious leaders, each controlled their little part of the empire. What were needed were patriots to rise up and take control again.
One of my seminary professors said that if the only reason for Jesus to come to earth was to die, God could have dropped him directly from heaven onto the cross. Jesus didn’t have to be born a baby, grow to be an itinerant preacher and healer, and suffer excruciating torture before his death. God must have had some overwhelming reason for Jesus to live on earth for thirty-three years.
I believe that, at least in part, Jesus’ life was meant to show us how to live. “This is what it means to be a human being,” he said, with every word, every act, every step. “This is what God intended you to be. This is how you are called to live.”
The main component of that behavior is love. We are to love as Christ loved, not parceling out our love a little at a time to those we like and agree with, but to practice a love that extends to everyone we meet. This love says “I love you no matter what.” It says, “I forgive you regardless of what you’ve done to me.” It demonstrates its abundance by standing for what is right no matter the cost. It means being patriot enough to stand against the dictators, the wicked kings, the corrupt leaders wherever they may be, even if it means discomfort or death.
Jesus showed us how to live and how to die. To say, “That’s not right!” To die to make others free, if that’s what is necessary. To be the kind of patriot that brings about the end of vain and aspiring men no matter the personal cost.