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Thursday, April 30, 2015

God and Government Pt. 6: The Indispensable Attitude of a Christian Citizen by Chris White




This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of  the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”   --Jer. 29: 4-7

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  –1 Timothy 2:1-4

When Jesus stood accused before Pilate He said something we disciples should always take to heart:  “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm (John 18:36).”  Paul underscores this in his epistle to the Philippians when he says “our citizenship is in heaven (3:20).”  On the other hand, Paul was never averse to using his Roman citizenship when it was a benefit to the gospel or the church.  Some like to speak of a Christian as having dual citizenship and this is certainly warranted from scripture but the paradigm I prefer is that of an exile or a sojourner in the world.  When the Lord disciplined Israel in the Babylonian captivity, he told them to seek the peace and blessing of the city of their exile.  They were to live in, work in, care about and pray for the well-being of Babylon but they were not to be fully vested in it.  They had a homeland and that was their true inheritance and it was to be where they placed their hopes and heart.  I believe Christians should care about the nation they live in and if we live by Christ’s great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, part of that love should be played out in supporting laws and leaders who will promote a moral and just society.  I don’t even see any conflict with patriotism or defending the homeland of our exile through military service either. 

With that understanding, I think it is indispensable that we not forget that we have no inheritance here and that our nations date with destiny (which has been used by every candidate to describe Nov. 5th in my adult life) is not our true destiny.  We care, we vote, we pray but we recognize our King and Kingdom are what is most important.  If this be true, neither the problems of our country or the failures of our leaders are of any ultimate consequence but rather just another bump on the road of life.
Please pray.  Please vote.  Please rest in the joy of your Savior whenever another November election roles around!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

God and Government Pt. 5: God “Gifts” Nations With Their Leader by Chris White




I gave you a king in My anger
And took him away in My wrath. 
                                                     ---Hosea 13:11

America’s greatest leader was George Washington.  He is known in history as the “father of our country” because of his incredible contribution to our founding as a nation.  Washington really is the father of the presidency as well because every holder of the office whether they want to or not, conforms to the patterns he lived by when he held the office.  To my mind, our first president’s true greatness was his character.  Though that character was tested time and again in battle (both military and political), he passed the greatest test when the Colonial Army having defeated the world’s superpower of the day came to him and offered to make him George I of America.  With their help, Washington would be given absolute power and a monarchy rather than have to deal with a pesky continental congress.  When a man of great strength and charisma can turn down the offer of unbridled power, you know they are a person of true character and integrity. 


Great leaders such as Washington are gifts from God and I might add, few and far between.  But something we all need to consider is that bad leaders are also a “gift” from God.  Many times in the Old Testament God raised up a king not as a blessing but as a chastisement to the people for their moral and spiritual failures.  That God guides the history of other nations besides Israel seems abundantly clear in Acts 17 when Paul preaches to the Athenians and tells them that God has determined the habitations, boundaries, and times of every nation on earth.  A good king (in our case president) is a grace, but it also follows that bad ones might be telling us more about our nation’s spiritual health than that we just checked the wrong box on our ballot.  But good or bad presidents aside, God’s people are always called on to preach the gospel and pray for our nation and the good of all people.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

God and Government Pt. 4: Why Politics Engages Some Christians, Repels The Others and Disappoints Just About Everyone By Chris White

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with his idealism



When we speak of politics we are speaking of organizing, governing, and leading people.  Our English word is an import from the Greek Politikos which in the ancient world carried the idea “relating to the citizens.” This is not a Bible word but is found in the philosophical writings of Plato and Cicero.  There is a difference between religion and politics that needs to be very clear.  Religion, in the broadest sense of the term, means giving God what is due.  This is applicable to all creeds and is especially clear in Christianity where faith and allegiance is due Christ who is the source of salvation.  Religion deals with absolutes such as dogmatic truth and ethics as well as ultimate possibilities such as the full potential of man and the universe.  While politics would love the status of dealing with absolutes it cannot in a liberal democracy (where free citizens elect their leader) because not all share the same religious commitment or worldview.  However, in politics, ultimate possibilities are the coin of every campaign. 

 Here is the overlay with religion which attracts many Christians.  A candidate or party presents a vision of what they will do when elected that resonates with the ethics and worldview of the Christian.  As Christians are charged by God to love their neighbor as themselves, supporting a platform or legislative measure that would point society in a more Christian direction is seen as progress or at least a return to our once firm but crumbling foundation.  Here’s the rub though.  While campaigns present ultimate possibilities to the voter, political power cannot be achieved without bringing together coalitions of people who have differing values.  In practicality this means every voter will likely have to compromise their highest values in differing ways depending on the good that might be achieved if their person is elected.  For some Christians political compromise is tantamount to ethical compromise on their part and thus the climate of politics becomes quite repulsive. 

When your mental furniture is at home with the teachings of Scripture which are absolute, it’s hard to think of compromise as being worthwhile in any setting.  Part of the problem on both sides of this equation is that political campaigns do not encourage circumspect thinking.  The issues and candidates are always presented in stark contrast because in marketing anything, your product must stand out from the others.  Nothing stands out like black and white, right and wrong, good and evil.  Hence we never really get to know the issues or the candidates, just their caricatures.  

But why is it after an election most Christians find themselves disappointed so quickly even if their cause or candidate won?  Well, there’s always the sin thing (which is certainly a big part of it) but that misses a key point: there is a huge gap between campaigning and governing.  Campaigns focus on our ideals and aspirations, governance deals with the reality of what actually can be done in a particular political climate and set of circumstances.  There is an old saying that goes like this: “the two things people should never watch are how sausages are made and how laws are passed.” Rarely are things gained without giving something in compromise and this absolute of politics virtually ensures the disappointment of everyone.