Chris Christie and the Enticement of Power

As you are probably aware, the governor of New Jersey is in serious trouble. After a very successful handling of Hurricane Sandy, which created high levels of goodwill among Republicans, Democrats and the general populace, Chris Christie’s reputation has taken some hard hits in the past few weeks.

First, it was the revelation that some of his highest aides orchestrated a massive 4-day traffic jam in Fort Lee as retaliation for that city’s mayor’s unwillingness to support the governor in the last election. And now, accusations are flying that the governor misused hurricane relief funds to make tourism commercials. To be fair, all of the accusations are just that at this time. Investigations are underway, but as of this writing, no facts have surfaced that the governor was aware of the retaliatory traffic jam. He is claiming that he had no knowledge of what his aides were doing and has relieved them of their duties. It is also a bit unclear at this time if the advertisements that featured his family were an inappropriate use of the federal funds. Hopefully, the truth in both situations will soon come to light.

Here’s what’s been bothering me about all of this: people who have power tend to misuse it. It’s incredible that political disagreements would precipitate a decision that knowingly creates so much havoc for people just trying to get to school or to get home from work. What would cause people in power to think that this is an appropriate use of their power? I don’t know. But somewhere in the human mind is a justification that makes sense as the decisions are being made. Somewhere in the human mind we believe that power equals freedom to do whatever we need to do because we have the power to do so.

Even as my sense of righteous indignation grows regarding this story, I have to admit how easily I am corrupted by power. If we have a sense of willingness to be honest with ourselves, we know it’s true. We don’t have to be the governor of New Jersey or the aide to the governor of New Jersey to feel it. Power of leadership in the church. Power of leadership in the community. Teaching a class. Leading a group. Chairing a committee. Serving on a committee. Organizing a ministry to people in need. All it takes is a little power to entice us to believe that we are more important than others, that we have the right to treat people however we choose, that we are entitled to something others are not.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the example of Jesus, of whom Paul writes:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

This is the call of every leader and of every Christian. It is the pathway to being the Church.