Last week we talked about family.
Today, we will look at government.
Bear in mind: neither earthly families nor government will exist in heaven. So what we are discussing concerns bringing heaven’s values into a fallen creation. Whenever creation is ultimately redeemed, government and family will not ascend into heaven.
Regarding government, there are tensions here on earth:
None of us like it when government imposes something on us. That is one reason that churches often thrive when Christians are truly aliens—government intrusion unites people against the government.
I am all for prayer in schools; I'm just not for organized prayer in schools. The issue is who does the organizing. I've been there when it has been people with whom I have disagreed.
Nevertheless, a free society requires a moral, virtuous, and I would argue, spiritual people. As John Adams wrote in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Without the discipline of spirituality, democracy downgrades into anarchy.
I certainly do not have the answer on this. Where does allowing someone to starve end and allowing someone to sink into despair… in order to find God… begin? I am not sure.
Having said this, I wrestle with government bureaucracy. A compassionate society as expressed by a people through its government can be good… unless the good will gets bogged by bureaucracy. It is hard to have a relationship with a bureaucracy. You cannot offer compassion without relationship.
Disclaimer: I’ve adopted a son and daughter through the good work of CPS. Clearly, I am not anti-government.3. The tension between the world we live in versus the world to come.
The struggle here is I want to create as much of a utopia as I can while on earth, but this does not always correspond with the purposes of God.
Sir Thomas More… describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean, called it “Utopia.” The idea we take from that is a place of perfection. Some have pointed out the irony of Moore’s title: “u” or “no” + “topos” or “place” = “no place.” I have not verified this, but I like the idea. We will not find the redemption of the world to come here in this one.
4. The tension between Jesus’ choices for his Kingdom and the reality of government.
Jesus had the power to overthrow Rome, but he chose not to. Most of Christian history sees the Christian population dealing with governments that are not Christian.
The time in history when Jesus came means that we have a template for the way we view government—if societal opportunities are beyond our control.
On the other hand, the roots of the United States cannot be found in a people who said, “We are going to take over this country.” Rather, it was with a group of pilgrims who were escaping religious persecution, and were allowed the chance to go to an area that was basically remote. They did not try to destroy the Indians. Fundamentally, they attempted to form their little community and to live in a way that was godly. And as much as anything else, these were the roots of our national government. They happened to have laid the foundation… the ground floor. What happens when you have godly Christian people creating a system of self-rule under the leadership of Jesus as King? You have the roots of democracy.
5. The tension between Jesus God of peace and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If I am kidnapped oversees, I want somebody to come save me. That means a police-like action from the military.
So to say I want to eliminate the military and let America go and trust God and live under the rule of terrorism or of some other oppression… is the equivalent of saying I want to live without a local police force.
8 final thoughts of government from Deuteronomy:
1. God would transcend all.
I do not see any way a nation can survive without an understanding of God transcending the country. No man is above the law, and the law comes from God.
Ideally, citizens and government officials would understand that one of the basic and the fundamental reasons we have government is to restrain evil (see Genesis chapter nine and Romans chapter thirteen.)
As I have mentioned, I do not believe in the church being connected to the state. However, I believe the famous letter that is cited from Thomas Jefferson is, in its context, reflecting Jefferson’s concern that the state would impede itself upon the church rather than the church having unnecessarily influenced on the state.
However, it does not do the Kingdom of God good to be too closely aligned to the state. It waters down the message of the Gospel and the call to discipleship.
If the Church marries the nation today, tomorrow she will be a widow. The same holds true for marriage to a political party. The Church transcends the state and the political party, not vice versa. The Church is the reflection of Christ—not culture.
The state was instituted by God to restrain sin and promote a just social order.
A theologian I have grown appreciate is actually a French one–Jacques Elluel, and he wrote this (to paraphrase): the Christian who is involved in the material history of this world is involved in it is representing another order, another master (than the “prince of this world”), another claim (than that of the natural heart of man)… Thus he must plunge into social and political problems in order to have an influence on the world, not in the hope of making it a paradise, but simply in order to make it tolerable–not in order to diminish the opposition between this world and the kingdom of God, but simply in order to modify the opposition between the disorder this world and the order preservation that God wills for it–not in order to “bring in” the kingdom of God, but in order that the gospel may be proclaimed, that all men may really hear the good news of salvation to the death and resurrection of Christ.
Charles Colson said that while human politics is based on the premise that society must be changed or to change people, it is the people who must be changed in order to change society. On the other hand, William Wilberforce changed history in England through setting in motion a series of legislation the stopped slavery.
2. Justice would be a major concern.
Look at Deuteronomy 16:19, “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”
Everyone's property would be secure, every person would be treated as one made in the image of God, all wrongdoing would be punished but in a way that is consistent with humanity, not dehumanizing the one who is guilty, no false accusations would be allowed, a fair trial would be assured. Equally important, no one shall be above the law, not even the nations top leader.
3. Everyone is treated with the dignity God has given him or her (Deuteronomy 15:12–18, Deuteronomy 24:7, 27:18.) This means that women are to be treated as human beings. This means people will not be exploited. This includes the disabled and the alien (see Deuteronomy 23:19; 24:6, 12–15, 17; 27:18.)
4. Creation would be honored (Deuteronomy 22:4, 6–7, 25:4.)
5. Rest would be assured for each citizen (Deuteronomy 5:12–15.) Each citizen would have at least one day off. I think about the poor people and industrial England and the hours they worked. Seven days a week, sometimes, and twelve + hours a day. It was insane.
6. Government would be concerned for the poor and disenfranchised. Deuteronomy 14, Deuteronomy 15, and others emphasize God’s concern for the poor.
7. Government would hold people accountable. People will be held accountable for the sake of society, and people will be held accountable for their own sake. To not do so would be self-destructive.
8. Government would reinforce God-honoring sexuality. This would be not only for the sake of society, but for the individual as well. Nothing demoralizes society like immorality. There is no structure, people are hurt, and God is not honored by one's physical body. All of this sickens the soul.
I am typing this quickly. I reserve the right to be wrong. Thanks for reading.