Transition of Power


—by Allen Reasons, Ph.D.

Over the last month or so, we have all heard the phrase, “peaceful transition of power,” multiple times.  Every four or eight years, we witness one of the greatest moments in our country as the keys to the most powerful office in the world are handed over to a different person.

My family visited Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, years ago on a vacation to see the sites foundational to our American heritage.  As is the case with most educationally-designed outings, the parents got as much out of the trip as the children did!  I was awestruck as I envisioned the history that had occurred in that room.

During the period in which Philadelphia served as the capital of the United States, Congress Hall had the prestigious responsibility of housing the U.S. Congress.  My family and I were standing where the House of Representatives and the Senate had made lasting decisions about our young nation.  If that notable significance in this building’s history were not enough, our tour guide explained to us that these walls also witnessed the inauguration of President Washington for his second term.

This building was certainly home to history, but overshadowing everything else in my mind was an event that occurred in this room four years after Washington’s second inauguration.  His vice president became the second president of our United States.  In the room where we were standing, George Washington peacefully transferred the power of the presidency to John Adams.  This was the moment that changed and affected American history forever.

With our country still in its infancy, surely grasping the heavy responsibility of deciding the right leadership for its fragile survival, our forefathers might not have had to argue too vociferously for Washington to keep the presidency himself.  I can imagine some people saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  Or perhaps some might have suggested, “Four more years couldn’t hurt, just this once at the beginning!”  It’s human nature to wish to stick with what we know.  Yet, President Washington knew that for the future of the democracy, he had to decrease, so Adams could increase.  He had to become less, so Adams could become more.

That weighty moment in American history illustrates the transition of power that occurred in our spiritual history when John stepped down to make room for Jesus to step up.  John was apparently very successful in his work.  To say that he would decrease required a significant sacrifice on his part.  Jesus Himself described John with these exalted words:

“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11, King James Version).

The Son of God declared John the Baptist to be the greatest to walk the planet!  The one who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, KJV), was willing to step down from a very tall pedestal indeed!  To enlarge our world around us for the better, we often must step out of its center.

For the sake of the nation, George Washington recognized the necessity of transitioning presidential power to John Adams.

For the sake of the Gospel, John the Baptist recognized the necessity of transitioning adherents’ allegiance to Jesus Christ.

For the sake of our salvation, we must recognize the necessity of transitioning our complete commitment to our Savior.