Friday, March 6, 2015

Clearing the Roadblocks: Does God Care About Our Government?

Recently I challenged all of my Facebook friends (the believers and skeptics) to send me some of the biggest things they find challenging or confusing about Christianity and Jesus. Here's the first submission and my answer:

Laura's question: if we believe that God is all-powerful and truly sovereign, then how do we reconcile with politics and laws that go against Christian principles? In other words, is God invested in our national government?

A: To answer your second question first, yes, God is invested in our government (and all the governments). We understand this by reading Romans 13 when Paul writes "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13:1 ESV). After all, Paul wasn't writing the book of Romans to a group of believers living in a Christian country. He was writing to them in Rome, the political entity that was currently oppressing and occupying Israel and had played a part in the death of Christ! So it's clear to us that there was no contradiction in Paul's mind between God's involvement in our governments and yet God not orchestrating every governmental decision so that it supports and accomplishes Christian principles and values.

After all, while first century Rome was not (and 21st century America is not) continually moving upward and to the right according to our Christian values, one has to admit that both civilizations are better off than if they were both subjected to mere anarchy. So while government isn't perfect, civilization is better with it than without it.

So now to your first question, which seems to be, "Why isn't everything moving upward and to the right politically and culturally if God is all-powerful and sovereign?" But behind that question I hear a few potential assumptions:
  • One might be that culture and history in general ought to be heading upwards and to the right, that God wants it to. This is debated among Christian circles, and while I don't have a strong opinion on the matter, the Bible seems teach that things will stay the same or even get worse until Jesus returns. And since I believe God is perfectly sovereign (on that I do have a strong opinion), then I also believe that God doesn't intend for human history to continually move upward and to the right politically and culturally. Paul seems to be saying as much when he writes to Timothy, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV)
  •  Another possible assumption is that government is supposed to be God's means to redeem and restore creation and humanity, rather than through the gospel and the church, and ultimately, through the return of Christ to rule at the end of time. The reality is, we're stuck in the in between time where Jesus' kingdom has been inaugurated and heralded, but it is not yet fully in place. And as we wait for Jesus to return, it is the church equipped with the gospel that should be changing our culture and thus our government (bottom-up) not our government that should be fixing our culture (top-down).
One interesting thing to note here is that, if the gospel rather than government is God's ultimate solution for humanity, then history (and the book of Acts) has shown us that un-Christian and even anti-Christian governments may actually be part of God's plan. After all, the thing that ultimately kick-started the rapid spread of the gospel in the book of Acts wasn't a government friendly to Christianity, but rather a government trying to eradicate Christianity. It was the wind of persecution that scattered the seeds of the gospel so far so quickly.
"Suffering saints are living seed." ― Charles Spurgeon
"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." ― Tertullian, 1st century AD
In short, my answer would be that, while government never has been God's plan to fix the world, it is a sign of God's common grace to the world because it's existence keeps things from getting as bad as they could be. And while God could just "wiggle his fingers" and cause every government to make their decisions in line with Christian virtue, that's not God's ultimate goal. God's rescue plan doesn't rest with the government legislating His values, it rests with the church proclaiming his gospel till there's no place left, and then Jesus will return and set up the first and last government we will ever need or want!

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