Political Engagement: Responsibility, Government & God
- Friday, November 10, 2006
Second, the government has great opportunity to do right. Government officials don't live in a vacuum. Some have access to special revelation and grace while others have access to general revelation and common grace. By virtue of providence and such revelation and grace, they are given opportunity to do right by the people. When Rehoboam was made King, "...Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you (2-5).'" Just as Rehoboam was informed of a problem and given the opportunity to do right, so to are our governmental leaders.
The sad reality is that Rehoboam later made some egregious errors with regard to the people. And yet, most of the time, individuals don't make regime or nation ending decisions at one time. They spiral downward over time in the face of great opportunity to do right. The erosion of freedom may be swift by way of invasion from a foreign power but most often that erosion is a slow process that occurs over time from within as the state arrogates more power to itself. (More on that sad reality below).
Third, the government chooses between good and bad advice. Note the advice given to Rehoboam. He "...consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, 'How do you advise me to answer these people?' And they spoke to him, saying, 'If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.' But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him... Then the young men...[said], "Thus you should speak to this people... 'My little finger shall be thicker than my father's waist! And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with stinging whips (6-11)!'"
Good advice, biblical advice, has to do with servant leadership. Good government is limited and protects the citizenry from predators. Bad government, unbiblical government, is oppressive and destructive of liberty. Rehoboam received bad advice from his boy-hood friends. It should not escape our notice that the Hebrew word used to describe them as "young" was derisive in context and was meant to describe them as children. His sycophantic friends were mere children in regard to their understanding and gave him corresponding counsel.
Christians must conduct themselves in principled ways. Those who find themselves in leadership must serve and those who are not in leadership must give biblical advice to those who are. Even as advice was given to Rehoboam, so too must Christians be at the table giving biblical advice to those in the public square. That advice may be given by way of seeking office, writing letters, or speaking to issues in different ways and contexts. At the very least, Christians can vote. That vote must be grounded in biblical principle and thus, even if the vote is cast for a losing cause (as the elders advice was rejected by Rehoboam), believers will have stood before God and man and declared "this is the way, walk ye in it." That dynamic is something to be considered when voting for the "lesser of two evils" vs. voting for a principled amendment or candidate even in the face of certain loss. Will we as Christians be "elders" or "children" as we advise with our votes?
At the same time, other contexts provide opportunity for biblical, political advice and instruction. J. Michael Johnson, Chief Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, was a recent guest on our radio broadcast. He talked about the erosion of our rights, the erosion of our religious freedom, and a variety of related court cases. He noted that homeschooling could eventually be outlawed in this country and that Christian schools are being forced to hire homosexual teachers. He cited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision that stated parents have no compelling interest or say in the sexual content of their children's curriculum. These developments may be surprising to many and Johnson admonishes us to be informed. The truth is that if we are informed, our conversations in the coffee shops and around the water coolers will be informed and others will be influenced as we bring a biblical worldview to the issues of our day. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword.
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