Don’t despair! All is not hopeless! If you have been reading this series so far, perhaps you found yourself wondering, “Does God want us to just sit back and do nothing while He rules the universe?”
And maybe some of you astute readers also had this thought in your mind: “that is all well and good, Brian, but you still have not sufficient answered my question about our Christian responsibility in a participative government. How should we interact with such a government, accepting the fact that God can use rulers who rebel against Him just as well as those who seek Him? What should Christians do in a land where our voice is heard and counted (or at least should be) in directing the future course of our government and nation?” What if you live in a place where the governing authorities are “of the people, by the people and for the people”?
To what degree should we involve ourselves in it, and how does this idea affect our perceptions of the nation in which we live?
I do believe these are really good and important questions that we must answer to follow Christ right here and now in history, but to answer them we must have our focus in the right place, and that is why I had to preface them with the previous two posts.
Our primary responsibility is to God and His Kingdom. He and His Kingdom must always be first, ceaselessly first, as Jim McGuiggan would say. Jesus calls His followers to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” on one occasion, whereas the overarching message of the gospel and the whole of scripture calls us to pledge our allegiances to God!
This means that while we do care, and deeply, about the course of our nation, we do not build our hope and trust on such a sandy foundation, for “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20)!
We can thus, with this view, approach the desires and goals of our participatory government as always subservient to the advancement of the Kingdom which we serve, Christ’s! And Christ’s Kingdom does not depend on the strength or wealth of any nation in which Christians reside on earth, it exists without borders, beyond the reach and power of despots. Should God choose to judge this nation, so be it. This does not mean the promise of Christ has failed! This by no means insinuates that the purposes of God in furthering His kingdom are in jeopardy! Whether by building up or by tearing down an earthly nation, God is working to reach into the farthest corners of the world and into the darkest parts of human hearts to save as many souls as possible.
So then, if our voices cry out for anything in a land where we live as strangers and aliens, let them cry out first and foremost, “the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15)! This is not a political cry, and it cannot be made into laws of a land, but rather is a new covenant law that must be written upon human hearts (Hebrews 8:10f).
If, and only if, we are focused first on this kingdom, we will be appropriately focused to have our voice heard in our participative government on earth to the end of furthering God’s purposes.
In Jeremiah 29:7, we see God’s telling Israel—that is being carried off into captivity by Babylon— that they should be concerned about the welfare of the country in which they life. “Pray for” it, God says, because if the wickedness of this nation spirals out of control, the godly people inside of it, along with the wicked will also be swept up in its resulting judgment. God instructed His people to be concerned for the good welfare of the country in which they lived even though they were strangers and not citizens in it.
So, then, what if we have opportunity to prohibit sin in the place in which we live by voting, shouldn’t we take advantage of that? But, the question is: how exactly do we do that?
If Christians are the majority group of a participative government, then they could easily implement laws according to God’s expressed will in an effort to have the strongest and best possible society. Notice what I didn’t just say there. It does not make a society “godly” just because the nation enforces laws based on Christian morality over all people who live in it. Such laws could have a good influence of prohibiting sin, because these values are best for people, but at the same time these laws could NEVER reach down into the heart of those being governed to change their desires to sin, only the gospel of Christ can do that.
As Christians in this scenario, we must always remember that these laws are not “evidence that God rules a nation” but rather they are simply: a blessing of a restraining influence against sin for a people. Since we know God’s ways are best for any society of function, we would certainly expect that any place which—whether knowingly of unknowingly—was ruled according to at least some godly principles, would flourish in proportion to their adherence to them.
So, it is good and right then for a Chrisitan to desire others to follow God’s standard for living because we know they will bless the nation and give opportunities for spreading Christ’s Kingdom in times of peace and prosperity. Go ahead and cast your vote for your nation to enact Godly principles as you are given ability to do so.
But what about when the followers of Christ are no longer a majority in a nation with participatory government? Obviously, in such situations the laws will inevitably be changed to match those of the majority! Why would we expect anything else? As the new majority dismantles what the old majority had established, what should we expect? The obvious: any laws which were once based on a Christian worldview will evaporate, and possibly quite quickly.
What impact does this have on a now minority of Christians who live in this place of participatory government? Where we once expected favorable situations for Christians (because the majority shared similar beliefs) we should now expect unfavorable situations for Christians. Where Christian values once guided and preserved the society at large through the laws enacted by a participatory government, we should expect these values to be rejected in favor of the new majority's desires. As a result, we should expect such a society to rush toward moral decadence and an eventual implosion resulting in God’s judgement.
None of this should be surprising in the slightest, since these laws never were God’s plan to stop the sinfulness of mankind anyway! God’s plan to fight against and mitigate the destructive power of sin against individuals and society is the power of the CROSS of Jesus Christ! (1 John 3:8)
With our allegiance given to Christ’s Kingdom, we’ll stand firm through the storm. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrew 12:28-29).
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just some thoughts from the minister with the Ft Cobb church of Christ.