Gratitude for Power-Restraints

The Supreme Court rendered a decision last week concerning Guantanamo Bay. Unlawful combatants there now have constitutional habeas rights (protection from unlawful detention). The decision was considered a rebuke to the Bush administration and the way the armed services are doing their work under his leadership.

Here is what amazes me and awakens thankfulness in my heart to God. I heard the president from Rome speak these words: “We will abide by the Court’s decision. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.”

Don’t let this go by without wonder and gratitude. Here is the most powerful leader in the world standing in public in the middle of Europe and saying for the whole world to hear that some of his decisions are nullified and his authority is curtailed and that he will submit to it.

Imagine such a thing in Myanmar or North Korea or China or Vietnam or in a half a dozen African regimes. Unthinkable.

What an incredible privilege we have to live in a land where human power is checked.

I believe in the wisdom of this kind of democracy because I believe in the almost unbounded potential of the human heart for evil. Power corrupts. It is biblically wise that there are checks and balances in the American system.

Another reason I believe in the wisdom of such a democracy is that Christian faith cannot be coerced by force, and unbelievers cannot be executed for their unbelief by anyone but the returning King of kings. Therefore, governance that limits the power of men to force faith or kill the faithless is a good thing.

I am thanking God today for the freedoms and the power-restraints of America.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.