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Decentralizationology

02/09/2012

Decentralization.  Centralization.  Political theory.  Mind-boggling to some, fascinating to some, and a matter of it-definitely-should-be-this-way to some.

I’m no political expert, but from what I can piece together from some of the classes I’ve taken and my slight interest in the political sphere, the centralization-decentralization debate is never-ending (and will be).  The general concept in simple form if I’ve lost you already: whether governmental power should be concentrated in the hands of a few or delegated to smaller levels of power.  Location plays into it too sometimes, where centralized power takes residence in a state or country capital.  Or a castle or something.  Anyways, the tricky part is that highly centralized governments often appear in structure to be decentralized, but aren’t.  The power seems to be in the people.  But the real power is in the hands of a few.

Ultimately then, the fear of highly centralized governments is that they ultimately end up making decisions based on their own interests.  They don’t take into account the people they are governing.  They become selfish.  Pretty simple concept.

Textbook example.

As Christians, there also seems to be a debate of sorts between centralization and decentralization.  First, let’s be clear.  The Bible is abundantly clear that God gives us everything in life: existence (Genesis 1), life and breath (Acts 17:25), forgiveness (Psalm 32), salvation through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2:8-9), assurance of salvation and security (Romans 8:32), and what we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  And obviously much more.  That’s a measly list.  God is perfectly powerful and able to provide.

Still, though, for some reason, there exists this debate in each of our hearts.  We wage war with ourselves over what is life is about, how life works.  What the world revolves around.  Ourselves or God?  Ourselves or others through the ways God has commanded?  Centralization is self-centeredness.  It’s selfishness.  It’s what we tend towards.

As Christians, we’re called to decentralization.  Selflessness.  Hopefully that’s nothing new.  On a large scale, life is about the working of God’s plan for His glory.  It’s clear that from our existence to our salvation to our death, we are to be about God’s glory.  Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:31 type stuff.  It’s the only logical response to the power and provision of God we just referred to above.

That’s the big big big picture.  On smaller, more delegated (practical, real-life) levels, the Bible shows us that life is about one-anothers in the church, the discipleship of others, a Gospel-oriented love for the lost, care for those in unfortunate circumstances, and other such things.  All God-centered and others-centered things.  It’s never about us.  Yet somehow, this is where the heat of the Christian’s centralization-decentralization debate occurs.  Should we centralize or decentralize?  The tricky part is that if we centralize these things and make them primarily about ourselves, we can still outwardly “achieve” the God-glorifying goals we’re set out for.  We can easily appear that we’re decentralized.  But we’re not.

But if we actually do decentralize, then these inherently God-centered and others-centered things become just that–God centered and others-centered.  Just like God intended it.  As told through His Word.  Discipleship becomes less about how we feel after we’ve met with a guy and more about our true desire for that guy’s sanctification.  Evangelism turns into a heart-wrenching task and is no longer a cumbersome one.  Church stops existing as a place to just be fed and connect with God, and becomes the God-ordained local community of believers to love and encourage.  Your time follows accordingly.  Your money follows accordingly.  For every situation, the right mentalities and attitudes become clear.  Discipline becomes necessary.  Things that were selfishly justified before disappear.  Personal preferences fall to the wayside.  Prayer is regular.  The Bible is paramount.

Passage after passage characterizes a Christian life that is decentralized.  Selfless.  Philippians 2:4, John 15:12, Romans 12:10 for short.  Christ always as the perfect example.  Paul’s letter to the Colossians in chapter 3 sums it all up quite nicely:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Decentralization.  It takes a decision to begin the reform–to stop operating in centralization mode.  But it takes a lifetime to be sanctified in it and fully decentralize.  Good thing there’s God’s power and grace!

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