The Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about politics or how to govern a country. The only example of a government chosen by God is His theocracy, which, strictly speaking, failed because of the wickedness of the human heart. And while no one rises to power without God’s allowing it, evil power exists because to wipe it out would mean the end of the world as we know it, ending all chances for people to choose Him. He is patient with the short, selfish lives of the mass of humanity so that as many people as possible will come to know Him.
So what should be the Christian perspective of government until we get that perfect ruler for eternity? I don’t claim to have worked it out, but I have noticed these things:
- The only example of God-instituted government and outwardly imposed law in the Bible is actually an anti-example. That is, it is showing that such laws cannot be kept by human power, and the laws do nothing to better the human condition. We need help from the inside-out.
- It is impossible to honestly choose which laws to impose; or who should throw the first stone.
- Enforcing such laws necessitates creating a power structure that is contrary to freedom, as well as easily turned to impose other ungodly laws.
For reasons only fully understood by God Himself, He has given us a choice about whether or not to love Him. When we, by His grace, are able to choose and accept His love, He is able to write His law on our hearts. Ever since Adam and Eve opted for knowledge instead of obedience, God has provided this dearly bought alternative.
But this law on our hearts is not a list of do’s and don’t’s, unless you limit it to “I DO love God and my neighbor” and “I DON’T need to worry about meeting His standards anymore, because He has given His powerful Spirit to guide me.” Either a person is saved and free from the power of wrong doing (sin), that is, growing toward perfection. Or he is not and is a slave to his own selfishness and deceptions (sin). Many people say they do not like this guilt-ridden word “sin,” but I haven’t met anyone that can legitimately claim to be perfect by their own effort. No matter what label they give it, people know they need help.
Trying to control desperate people, and the society they create by the process of living, through outwardly enforced laws is trickier than you might think. People seem to rally around certain laws or regulations, being convinced these are the most important and necessary for order. They become a religious mob (whether they call it religious or not), driven by a particular brand of propaganda. I would ask them: Why is a law against homosexuality more important than a law against lying or gossip? Does the man-made government need to step into our lives in cases of murder more than it needs to interfere when we decide how many children to give birth to? Is food regulation more sacrosanct than what music we are permitted listen to?
Obviously, some people think there should be a collective borg-like control over all aspects of our lives, but that is partly the point. Who gets to decide what is best for everyone else? How can any group of people know what is best for another? Even if you have a solid grasp of basic principles and have been a good example with your own life, each person’s set of circumstances is unique. The letter of the law destroys possibilities that might otherwise be the best and godly option because of a specific situation.
Ideally, we would all have the freedom to live the way we want to. In reality, there will always be some people with more worldly power than others. That doesn’t mean that it is right or good to try to gain some of that power, even if we think it is for a “good sort of control.” Chances are, that as we mature, we will see our priorities about rules change.
Rules are generally for young children, because they have limited reasoning ability and self-control. With maturity comes both the responsibility and opportunity to make decisions that rules don’t help with. If this learning experience is denied, the child doesn’t develop an adult understanding of life. The mutual respect upon which relationships are built is not possible. And while some might argue that various adults are acting like children, the question must again be asked, “Who gets to decide that?” God, in His wisdom, has placed children under authority in families for a limited amount of time. After that, as adults, they get to make their own choices.
All of this discussion can also be applied to the idea of who how we participate in the economic sphere of life. Do we impose moral standards on those we might do business with? Do we want our imperfections (arguments with spouses or friends, mistakes in disciplining our children, unhealthy eating habits, laziness, careless speech) tallied against us as someone measures whether or not to hire us? Wouldn’t we rather be free to have our opinions and habits? Wouldn’t we rather everyone be patient with our own personal journey in life? If we try, supposedly as Christians, to limit our business transactions to those with pure thoughts and lives, we might as well go live in a cave! We might even have to avoid ourselves.
I am all for discerning good and evil. Some things are plain bad and I’m not afraid to speak up about that. What I won’t do is be surprised that sinners sin. I also won’t be deceived into thinking that a certain set of laws will make that better, or that the effect of such laws on our freedom is worth the price for the illusion of a “good” society.