The Power and the Glory
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” —1 John 1:8
British author Graham Greene has written a book entitled The Power and the Glory. It was chosen by Time Magazine as one of 100 best books of the 20th century, all the more remarkable since Graham Greene was a Christian. Greene did not write “Christian” books, however. He smuggled the gospel into his novels in subtle ways.
The plot of The Power and the Glory is set in Mexico during the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government was suppressing the Church. Persecution was especially severe in the state of Tabasco where the governor encouraged communist paramilitary groups to harass Christians, close churches, and drive the clergy out of town.
There are two protagonists in the book: a police lieutenant who is a communist, an atheist, but a good man; and an unnamed priest who is an alcoholic—a “whiskey priest” in Green’s words—but a man who had a sincere love for God and His people.
In the story, the priest is expelled from his parish in Tabasco but returns to care for a dying parishioner, even though he knows he will be captured. He is indeed captured and imprisoned. The last chapter of the book is devoted to a final conversation between the lieutenant who hounded him to ground and the priest.
The lieutenant argues that communism works, evoking the image of a utopian socialist state. The priest replies: “Your system would work if all men were as good as you. My system (the gospel) works because all men are as bad as I."
I think of the pretentious, self-congratulatory Pharisee who “prayed to himself” and applauded his own good behavior and the Publican who could do nothing but cry out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Guess who “went home justified”?
Bret Hume, the Fox News analyst who became a Christian shortly after the death of his son some years ago, has spoken candidly about his conversion. When Tiger Woods’ infidelities destroyed his marriage and marred his image he advised Woods to turn to Christ. “Christianity is the right religion for people like that,” he said; “Christianity is a religion for sinners.”
“Come to me” Jesus said and still says, reaching out to those who are weighed down by sin.