Monday, November 1, 2010

Religion & Politics - Part 1

"Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn’t been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God. Therefore, whoever resists the government opposes what God has established. Those who resist will bring punishment on themselves.

"People who do what is right don’t have to be afraid of the government. But people who do what is wrong should be afraid of it. Would you like to live without being afraid of the government? Do what is right, and it will praise you. The government is God’s servant working for your good.

"But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid. The government has the right to carry out the death sentence. It is God’s servant, an avenger to execute God’s anger on anyone who does what is wrong. Therefore, it is necessary for you to obey, not only because you’re afraid of God’s anger but also because of your own conscience."  (Romans 13:1-5, GWT)

Election day is the perfect time to take a good long look at the role of government in our lives.  While many will contend that nothing is more taboo than discussing religion and politics, God thinks otherwise.  His word has something to say about the intersection of the two.

Today's Bible passage shows us that government was established by God for our good.  This framework, while so often misused and rallied against, was originally intended for the well-being of society as a whole.  Although we can become annoyed and frustrated with government, it is amazing to think that God cares so much for us that He established boundaries that would keep us safe from crime, provide for the corporate building of roads and the like, and keep mankind moving in some sense of general order.  Left to ourselves, we might experience total chaos and anarchy!

The intriguing and challenging points are encountered when we adamantly disagree with our government.  It appeals to our most base emotions of anger and revenge when we bad mouth those in authority.  In our frustrations with corruption or godless decisions by politicians, it's so very easy to spout toxic comments, even in the presence of our children.  But here's where our Christianity has to rise up.

I often remind my kids and others that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  If we cannot submit to those in charge who we can see, how can we ever submit to the Lord who we cannot see?  Our children are not allowed to say that they wish certain politicians were dead or to wish anyone harm.  That sort of behavior is completely contrary to what Jesus modelled.  While we may be greatly troubled by what we see going on in government, we must respect the position of president, governor and other roles of authority.

Further, because of God's mandate, it is essential that we become engaged and measure those running for political office with the yardstick of God's word.  We have the blessing of being able to look back at what happened when the Israelites made good and bad decisions selecting leaders by reading the books of first and second Kings. When godly leaders are not properly vetted by the citizens, a culture suffers.  History shows this time and again.  We should be ever mindful of this at election time.

Finally, keep in mind that Yahweh is the ultimate sovereign ruler.  While we must be vigilant voters and law-abiding citizens, losing sleep over who is in power is outright foolishness.  Yes, unwise or corrupt positions held by our leaders or those seeking to be leaders can be unnerving, but here again is where our faith needs to rise up.  Remembering that nothing happens apart from God's watchful eye, permissive will or ability to recycle for the good should be of great comfort to us.  We should additionally be mindful that we cannot expect a human government to provide that which only a sovereign God is capable of.  In other words, don't hang all your hopes on a specific piece of legislation or lawmaker.  Our hope comes from our Father who rules over all.

Equipped with all these Divine reminders where government and faith intersect, go forth boldly to vote.  And once the elections are concluded, yield to the authority of those who have won and get on with life.  Let your relationship to government be directed by our Eternal Authority.

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