The Call to Power

In the first chapter of his book In, But Not Of, Hugh Hewitt writes, "Among men alive at the time I wrote this book, three had done more to shape our world than any others . . . It is hard to imagine a more unlikely trio." One of these men spent years in a prison camp and later became a math teacher. Another one, a bishop from a working-class background, didn't get his dissertation published until he was 40 years old. And the third had a film career that started promisingly but never reached stardom. But Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Pope John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan weren't content to stay in obscure positions. They were men of ambition. And their ambition benefited not only themselves, but the rest of the world as well. "Had [these men] chosen different paths -- easier paths -- the Soviet Union might well still be where it was," Hewitt points out. A gifted radio talk-show host, columnist, and law professor, Hewitt wrote his book as a practical guide for students and young adults who want to make an impact on the world for Christ. As his examples show, he thinks that one of the best ways to do this is to pursue power -- in business, in the cultural arena, and especially in "the sphere of political and public affairs." But how do we reconcile Hewitt's ideas with what the Bible teaches? We know that Christ called us to serve, not to be served, and we often translate that to mean that we're supposed to shun the spotlight. We fear the corruption that worldly power can bring. And it does -- I know from personal experience the dangers of having and trying to keep political power. What we need to remember is that sometimes, however, power also brings great opportunities for service. For instance, being a Christian in public life allows people to help preserve our freedom of worship in this country and to speak up for persecuted Christians abroad. Power is never to be an end in itself, but when accepted with humility and trust in God's guidance, power can be used legitimately as a means to an end -- that end: the building of God's kingdom. Hewitt acknowledges the dangers that power can pose to Christians. We've all heard stories of Christians who have let power lure them away from God and into sin. But Hewitt doesn't let us off the hook on that account. Instead, he calls us to a higher level of accountability. "Plant yourself in a church," he writes, "and hedge yourself with close friends who can keep you anchored when the particular dangers of living in the world come close, but do not allow yourself the easy way out -- of easy volunteer work or a life of prayer for the world but no action." My formulation for this is simple: See that what you have is not power for yourself, but moral authority that can come only from your godliness. Whether you are a Bible study leader or a senator, as a Christian you can model the right kind of power. Make no mistake -- the world would be a poorer place without the courageous Christians who refused to take the easy way out. If you know a student or young professional whom God may be calling to a life of public service, you might want to give him or her a copy of Hewitt's book. Every young Christian, especially those who may end up in positions of power, needs to understand how to participate in the world without being of it. For further reading: Hugh Hewitt, In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Thomas Nelson, 2003). Call 1-877-322-5527 to order a copy of this book along with an audiocassette titled "The Use and Abuse of Power," a conversation between Charles Colson and James Dobson. Hugh Hewitt has a blog on various cultural and political issues at Gina Dalfonzo, "Power with a Purpose," Boundless, 18 September 2003. Cindy Crosby, "Getting Ahead," Christianity Today, 20 August 2003. Alex Wainer, "My Will Be Done: The Problem of Too Much Power," BreakPoint Online, 11 July 2003.


Chuck Colson


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