No private sin is quite so publicly ensnaring as the quiet promise of political access. It trips up the most sure-footed activist, and silences even the boldest advocate of liberty.
The fourth chapter of Mathew’s Gospel records the specific temptations dangled in front of Jesus by Satan. I categorize them as pairings of comfort and ease, safety and power, and vanity and prestige.
For example, we read that Jesus was taken to a “very high mountain” where Satan showed Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” It was there Satan said, “All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me.”
Jesus immediately respond, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
Too many in politics – politicians and citizens alike – have taken the deal, justifying it with all the alleged good they could theoretically achieve.
I hear elected officials constantly tell me they must make compromises with devil so that they can “do good things.” I bet Jesus could have justified saying “yes” just like that. I know I could; I’ve heard variations of it an uncountable number of times.
And it’s not just the politicians.
Not long ago a well-known Christian conservative told me he was going against his base of supporters – and even “sacrificing” his own conscience – by endorsing a corrupt member of Austin’s corps of cronies. He claimed by taking such an action he’d demonstrate an ability to maintain relationships with elected officials. His rationale? So he could be an insider, and therefore get good things done down the road.
Once one starts worshiping at the altar of political access, those “good things” used as the initial justification happen less and less. Can’t lose that access! And, in their final evolution, that agreeable access-seeker is found to be working against the principles he once so loudly espoused.
Like any addictive substance, satisfying the need for access becomes an all-consuming need to which anything will be sacrificed.
Over the years, a sad number of activists have become addicted to the access afforded to them by being friendly with those in power. Rather than risk alienation, they move from citizen-leader to political-sycophant. Where they once boldly spoke truth to power, they end up defending governing malfeasance.
This is why Jesus said no. He knew He had access to a power far greater than earthly princes. He knew where such a compromise would lead.
The same is even more true for each of us. The access we should crave is to God, not the powers and principalities of the world.
As citizens in a self-governing republic we must reject the “access” model of politics, holding each other accountable by speaking honestly in the face of governing temptation. By operating as a community of citizens, we can begin to reclaim our government.