In writing about Lucius Sulla, Augustine says,
“For that victory was not so conducive to his exaltation to power, as it was fatal to his ambition; for by it he became so insatiable in his desires, and was rendered so arrogant and reckless by prosperity, that he may be said rather to have inflicted a moral destruction on himself than corporal destruction on his enemies.”
I’m not a good enough student of history to cite the reasons for Augustine taking such a dim view of Sulla’s career.
The point of challenge for me is Augustine’s perspective that Sulla’s choices had as great an effect on himself as they did on those he mistreated. The point is that we should not only be concerned about the effect on society but should also be concerned about the souls of the ones who are making the decisions.
It is so easy to lose this perspective. I hear things about political leaders and I see decisions that are made and get frustrated and angry at the abuse of power and waste of resources. Yet I don’t stop long enough to be concerned about those who are perpetrating the abuse and waste.
The influential and powerful are no less loved by God than the poor and outcasts. God is concerned for their souls and I should share that concern. But often I get caught up in the rhetoric and lose sight of the fact that the influential and powerful imperil their own souls by their actions.
Perhaps I should spend as much time praying for those who are making choices with which I disagree as I do decrying the abuse.
The point is not to move toward inaction, but to move toward prayer before, during and after action.