“Some favorite expressions of small children: “It’s not my fault. . . They made me do it. . . I forgot.” Some favorite expressions of adults: “It’s not my job. . . No one told me. . . It couldn’t be helped.” True freedom begins and ends with personal accountability.” – Dan Zadra
Rome was the center of the ancient world. Powerful, conquering and high minded; if you were a Roman citizen, the world was at your fingertips. If you embodied the Roman cultural ideals, you were well respected and placed in positions of prominence. Oddly enough, there are many similarities of Ancient Rome and the US. A world which shines brightly with white columns, golden cathedrals and fiery pillars of achievement, yet many of its interior corridors are divided, confused, at war, and battling for superiority within the pursuit of significance. The individual is publicly lauded for achievement, and privately disparaged in the envy of their successes. As Machiavelli stated, “Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are, and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.” As it was in the days of Julius Caesar and Nero, it is difficult to stand strong with integrity in the world of today. It has been easier to fold into the collective of society, than to weather the storms of personal principles of ethics, values and morality. In a time where people are constantly indignant over one-sided judgments, publicize personal accusations based on subjective societal criteria, focus their attention on self-promotion and status oriented association, and make declarations of injustice which respond societal misconstrued applications of words as ideologies; we find context in a place like the Romans – conquering kingdoms and losing ourselves. We politicize things like tolerance, responsibility, open-mindedness, and hope. We align agenda with virtual nothingness to impute significance into our objectives. The meters of society place higher accolade on the ability to change and the inherent good of modifying yourself to seamlessly fit into every situation, every opinion and every momentary issue, than on consistency in principles of excellence. Like reeds in the wind, we are left to sway with the blowing of our culture around us, or be identified as a violator of a politicized misnomer. It is in the midst of all of this that we find ourselves trying to stand for something worthy of consistency. It is in these times that we search for purpose which is not defined by the reeds of society. We stand in the midst of a revolution where we have our world redefined by that which supersedes the momentary trials of the temporal and usurps the powers of those who preach the liberation of self through selfishness.
One such Roman who got caught in the wind with the reeds was named Pilatus. Caught up in the mechanics of position and reaction, he was a high ranking official who was known for his cruelty and abuse of those he was in charge of. In one specific case, he knowingly sent an innocent man to his death based on the opinion of the crowds. He had him publicly beaten, mocked and disgraced in response to the demands of the masses. He questioned his motives, tried the man, sought advice and left the decision of his position to be swayed by the winds of voices calling for action without reason. Like many of us, he took a road which embraced the popular opinion over the findings of his own inquiry.
As it is in our society, the search for truth is often overcome by the influence of societal mores which are focused on someone else’s agenda. If we found out the innocence of a man, should we keep an open-mind to his would be attackers and give him over to injustice? If public demand was forcing you to be a party to something that violated your principles, should you go along under the banner of tolerance? Is our responsibility not to upset the social order? Can we have hope in a society which asks us to abandon consequences for progress? Much like Pilatus, it is easy to get involved in the popularity of what is around us instead of adhering to principles which supersede fulfillment in the peers of our associations. He looked the other way on his responsibility and his position to provide justice, and became party to the loss of integrity at the request of the people around him. As Moliere said, “It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”
We have interactions like Pilatus throughout our lives. We spend time being swayed by a collective, focusing on big issues; ignoring the details of accountability which surrender our integrity to a divergence from ideology to momentary satiation of the immediate. We never know to what extent we end up with the actions of Pilatus echoing in our actions by viewing the true needs of a situation by the popular demand. We all know the difficulties of remaining reliable amidst arduous circumstances. We know the pressures of trying to stand for something that is worth standing for. In the face of life’s incredulities, it can be difficult to believe that there is anything or anyone who provides lasting significance outside of our own sense of direction. Fortunately for all of us, there was a man named Jesus Christ who knows what the sway of popular opinion can lead to. After all, He experienced our indecision and fickle hearts just as He knew the indecisive action of Pilatus, better known as Pontius Pilate. This innocent man, sent to death on a cross was faithful to take an undeserving punishment on our behalf. The Savior that finds us where we are lost and redeems us. He is faithful for us to rely on Him through difficult circumstances. In his faithfulness, his provision will be sufficient, his sustenance will fill us to abundance and He will not leave us empty and questioning our actions for significance.
When our reliance is on the Living God within our daily lives, we are opened up to the power which contained in the consistency of his character and his provision. Acts 1:8 says that the mark of our lives in Christ is power bestowed on us by the Holt Spirit. His power fills us as we seek Him. Taking a stand on an issue that might be against the swaying reeds of society may be fearful, or costly, or alienating; but it is the exact willingness to call on the Lord for strength and be faithful to the integrity of his desire; which is the floodgate for the abundant blessings of our unity with the Father. If we are open to being filled with Him, He will stand strong in us amidst adversity. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” It is no longer I who live, but Christ, living in me. This is the power of the Living God. Indwelling us, empowering us, providing for us; when we face the slings and arrows of sustaining integrity before a society calling for us to abandon it for a larger world view, Christ living in us uses us to minister to those we come into contact with. When we surrender our accountability to the desires of his heart, we are filled with his Spirit and the fullness of his significance. Galatians goes on and says: “And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me, and gave himself for me.” We do not lose ourselves to conquering kingdoms; we gain new life in the Holy God living through us every day. For who is this that we say is indwelling us? He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords living inside us, comforting us, directing us. He is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign Lord of Hosts. He who does not change and loves us so infinitely that He let his Son die for us so that we could be adopted into his family. And, who are we in response? We are his beloved children. We can speak these truths to ourselves in the moments when the wind blows and the reeds call out for our agreement, “I am no longer my own. I have been indwelled by the Living God, Jesus Christ. I am a child of the Heavenly Father.” We once were lost, but now we are found. Only in Him do we have a Savior from the swaying reeds and the division of our hearts. Only in Him do we have the freedom of being covered in the love of the one who was mocked, beaten and crucified for our sins. Our power in integrity is tied not to our own might, but by his Spirit. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us. Let us go forward in the Spirit of Him who lives in us. Let us stand amidst the reeds and let the power of the Lord echo over the prevailing masses. Let us be strong in responding to others as Christ living through us in action, and allow the provision of the Lord to cover our indecision. Let us be accountable to Christ as He lives in us; and know the surpassing peace and purpose of showing our world who we are in Him.