Government and God

Peter Garich
November 19, 2008

This document was written prior to the 2008 elections.

“Government And God”

By Peter Garich

“Hi, I’m Peter and I’m an addict.”

I have a confession to make: I’m a political junkie. Ever since I was 8 years old, watching the Republican Convention with my Dad, I’ve been hooked. This year I’ve enjoyed the intensity of the debates and the unpredictable news coverage of the candidates—Republicans

and Democrats—as they’ve pressed-on toward the Presidency. Since becoming a Christian I have also been aware of the Biblical need to both care about what’s going on in

politics as well as be involved—even if that just means making sure I vote. As Biblical Christians I believe we are to be thoughtfully engaged in the future of our country and the world at large. Right now we are at a time in history when the Church can (and I believe must) be motivated

to take the lead in the future of the United States, as well as in looking for solutions to the problems in a postmodern world. If we don’t then someone else will. But what exactly is our role? The quick answer is that we should make sure we do the least—like thoughtful voting—and encourage the greatest—like involvement at all levels of politics. This is a privilege many in the

world don’t have and Christians must not be slack. Here follows an article that made me think. It’s by Larry Taunton, Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation, and reproduced with permission. He asks the question:

WHO WOULD JESUS VOTE FOR?

“With the primary season in full swing there is no shortage of would-be Presidential hopefuls who have evoked the name of God or Christ with hopes that the “Religious” community will take notice and vote for them. But a question remains unanswered: who should we vote for? And even more to the point for us as Christians: who would Jesus have voted for? Since both

parties call on His name with great regularity, it is a logical and important question. In speeches on issues ranging from taxes to the war in Iraq, it seems that every member of the Trinity is being cited to buttress the candidates’ positions. So I ask: Who would Jesus vote for?

To answer the question we must look to the Gospels and consider Jesus’ message and conduct where politics was concerned. Perhaps you are thinking that the Gospels offer scant information on the subject of Jesus and affairs of state. But you would be wrong. The historical context

of Jesus’ earthly ministry was far more politically charged than that of our own time. In fact, that He was a threat to the existing political structure was one reason for His enemies to murder Him.

So I repeat, who would Jesus vote for? That is a question His contemporaries wanted to know, too. Not that there were any Democrats or Republicans at that time—whether that is a bad thing or not, I leave you to decide—but there were plenty of political “parties” vying for power. Romans, Zealots, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes all wanted to know Jesus’ politics. Would He support their agendas or was He an enemy to be destroyed? Let’s consider the evidence.

Contrary to their popular image, Roman authorities are depicted throughout most of the New Testament as ambivalent to Christianity. Indeed, the first Gentile convert of the new church was a centurion, and he was shortly followed by a Roman governor (Acts 10 and 13). It was not until the burning of Rome in 64 AD that state sponsored persecution of Christians began. Prior to that

time, Rome was mainly concerned with maintaining order in a religiously diverse empire. But when the Jewish crowd accused Jesus of treason against Rome—“bad politics,” so to speak—Pilate relented and crucified Him (John 19:12–16).

What about the Zealots? Although Scripture says little about them, it is a safe assumption that they were also interested in Jesus’ politics. Violent and embittered by Roman tyranny, the Zealots wanted to overthrow Roman governance of Israel using any and all available means.

Was Jesus the conquering Messiah they had long anticipated? When He demonstrated a capacity to woo crowds and perform miracles, some attempted to seize Him and make Him a king. But Jesus did not permit it and withdrew (John 6:15). Many scholars think that it

was, in part, a disappointed Zealotry that incited the Jerusalem mob to call for Jesus’ death when they might have asked for His release. Who was released in His place? Pilate gave them Barabbas, a murderer who was, most probably, a leader of the Zealots.

As for Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, they are well documented. Having amputated Judaism from authentic worship of God, they were quick to recognize that Jesus’ message was a threat to their monopoly on power. When it became clear to them that He would not recognize their authority, their anger intensified and culminated in a plot to kill Him.

So what may we deduce from this small window into the politics of the day about Jesus’ political views? First of all, Jesus was not, as some suggest, indifferent to politics.

As Abraham Kuyper once said, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’”

Nevertheless, He did not endorse any political platform, for He knew that politics are

merely the superficial manifestation of man to control his world. Hence, it was His practice to address matters of the heart—justice, mercy, love, man’s need for His atoning work—and the eternal consequences that accompany our attitudes toward each. The result was that He condemned elements of every group for their sinfulness and refusal to obey God, while affirming others for their obedience. Secondly, His ultimate allegiance was to God the Father, not men and their worldly systems. From this we learn that political views are good only to the extent that

they are subordinated to God’s holy and inerrant Word. The late Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote,

“There is but one test of truth: ‘What do the Scriptures say?’ In front of this let every prejudice collapse.” So must it be in politics as in every other realm of life. The politics of the day

are and must be subjected to God, Christ and His Word! Finally, Jesus understood that while party affiliation may be an expression of one’s deeply held convictions; it does nothing to put you in right standing with God. One may, for instance, resolutely support all of the “correct”

policies and still lack a saving knowledge of Christ. Let us, therefore, remember that conversion to a political cause is not the same as conversion to Christianity. And our ultimate hope is not in politicians or the laws they enact, but in Jesus Christ alone. No matter what we confront in this seemingly chaotic world there are absolute truths we can fix on, and they will secure us in the steadfast hope of God. In 1st Peter he encourages us not to fear or be frightened of anything

(in the world—or specifically within the political minefields devised by men—like those of Rome during his life). Peter writes, “But in your hearts set Christ apart as Lord. Always prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:14–15) By God’s grace we have this same hope to which our Savior held fast as He faced the

extreme religious forces and political powers of His day. And in setting Christ apart in our hearts AS LORD we too are assured that we stand within the sovereign reign of the one true government which controls all things—for “His kingdom will endure forever.” (Lk. 1:31)

With that said, in a time such as this, I cannot tell you to be aligned with any specific candidate running for the office of presidency. It’s not the man or woman who stands there saying they “are the best person for the office,” and, by-the-way they’re “religious, too.” But what I can say with a certainty is this: the one with whom we must eternally align and on whom we must rely—

setting Him apart in our hearts—already governs the world with a sovereign, just and merciful hand. And He is THE KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS—the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, what should we think about the power of our government to rule us when their intentions seem self-serving, but they say, “We’re acting for your good?” As Christians what should our response be to their authority? The simple but challenging answer comes from Scripture. When it comes to our relationship to the government Paul instructs that “Everyone must submit

himself to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rm. 13:1)

Speaking with God’s authority, Paul says that we all must submit to the authorities that

govern. But be very clear: their binding rule is only authoritative because our sovereign God has set them over us. All governments govern at the behest of and according to His will, no matter how corrupt we believe they are—for in their fallen-ness they often work against the good of the people. At the same time God is working all things according to His will and for His glory, no

matter how bad things seem. This may be a hard saying for us because we bristle at the levels of corruption we observe, wondering, “how in the world can God bring good out of such things?” I’m sure this sentiment was the same for Christians at the time Paul wrote these

difficult words for Rome’s rule was absolute and ruthless. But let’s think back to what was stated earlier, “Our ultimate hope is not in politicians or the laws they enact, BUT IN JESUS CHRIST ALONE!” This then is our hope!

In His Service,

Peter Garich

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