Recently we were reminded that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. What is a Christian to do? Conventional wisdom would suggest that he should get into politics and “make a difference”, that a Christian member of parliament must be a very good thing. That is a perfectly natural thought - but let us seek the mind of God on this subject.
We can look at these headings:
- What positive action is called for?
- What is omitted?
- Christians and government as separate classes.
- Is it the time for improving the world?
- Citizens or strangers?
- Is this a period of suffering or ruling?
- What must a Christian government do, if it was in power?
We all love action. What should we do? In the New Testament we are told to pray for those who rule. 1 Timothy2:1-2, “I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made for all men; for kings and all that are in dignity”… Is there anything greater that can be done than that? Not just pray, but supplicate, pray, intercede and give thanks. In 1 Peter 2:17, it is “…fear God, honour the king”.
What is omitted?
Have you noticed that there is not one word of instruction for a Christian ruler, magistrate, etc. in the New Testament. I find instructions for wives and husbands, servants/slaves and masters, children and parents. Note the order in which they are presented, as there is teaching even in that. But not a word as to governing in the world in this period. The Lord himself never interfered with government. He began no protest or revolution - “He shall not strive or cry out, nor shall his voice be heard in the streets”, Matthew 12:19. He left John the Baptist in prison, and did not prevent John from being beheaded by Herod. He left the repentant thief on the Roman cross, after promising him a better place – “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”.
Christians and government.
I notice this fact: Christians and government are seen as different groups. The Lord says in Luke 22:25, “The kings of the nations rule over them,,, But ye shall not be thus; but let the greater among you be as the younger, and the leader as he that serves”.
Government is set up by God, Romans 13:1-7. “For there is no authority except from God; and those that exist are set up by God”. The Lord told Pontius Pilate that he (Pilate) “had no authority whatever against me if it were not given to thee from above” – John 19:11. So whatever people may think they achieve by a democratic process, it is God who is working behind the scenes. He permits things in his providence that are beyond our understanding at the time. He can raise up the basest of men, as it says in Daniel 4:17.
This leads to a very serious consideration – the kingdoms of this world have at present been given to Satan, with limitations. In Luke 4:5-6, the devil shows the Lord “all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time. And then the devil said to him, I will give thee all this power, and their glory; for it is given up to me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If therefore thou wilt do homage before me, all of it shall be thine. And Jesus answering him said, It is written, Thou shalt do homage to the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve”. The Lord Jesus did not refute the Satan’s words that God had given him (Satan) scope in connection with the nations. Think about the implications of this.
Is it a time for improving the world?
“Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up, will draw all to me”, John 12:31. Jesus speaks as looking forward. If the world system is under judgment, what part does a believer have in trying to improve it by running for parliament? None. It is a world that has rejected Christ, and as we shine here for him, it will reject us. Luke 6:22, “Blessed are ye when all men shall hate you… for the Son of man’s sake… for your reward is great in heaven”. He does not say: “Blessed are ye when the majority shall vote for you, and elect you to council or parliament”. The continual effort of people is to try to put the world right, but God’s way is rather to put persons right, through the gospel.
Citizens or pilgrims? [A pilgrim is defined as a resident foreigner in scripture.]
Is a Christian a citizen of this world, or is he passing through as a traveller? Is this world his real home, or is he an ambassador who belongs to heaven? In Philippians 3:20 we are told that “our commonwealth [or associations of life, as in “I am an Australian”] has its existence in the heavens”. In 1 Peter 2:11 we are described as “strangers and pilgrims [sojourners]”. In John 17:14, “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world”. In Colossians 3:1-4, “…seek the things which are above, where the Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God; have your mind on the things that are on the earth”. This does not render us impractical people, but rather that our affections and minds are not centred on the world’s system. Abraham was a great example of a godly stranger. The only piece of land he owned was a burial plot. Note his testimony in Hebrews 11:8-19.
What dispensation are we in? The time to rule, or to suffer.
In the dispensation of the law, Israel was destined by God to be “the head” of the nations, see Deuteronomy 28:13. They were to destroy their enemies, and occupy the land of Canaan. As theirs was an earthly inheritance, the suppression of enemies was a necessity. Israel’s departure from God and their idolatry resulted in God giving government into the hands of the Gentiles. Deuteronomy 28:15 promised that failure to obey God would result in a stranger being “the head, and thou shalt be the tail”. The first in that line was Nebuchadnezzar. It is still the “time of the Gentiles”.
In the period of grace, the people of faith are called out of the world to a path of suffering. John 17:14-16 Jesus clearly indicates that the world has hated them (disciples) because they are not of it, as he was not of it. What about the verse in Luke 2:52, where we are told that “Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men”? That was the first 30 years - but look what happened as soon as he began his public ministry in Luke 4. They wondered at his words of grace, but as soon as he reached their conscience, they purposed to throw him down the precipice. As soon as we stand for the rights of God, we will be in conflict with a world that has rejected Christ.
In the kingdom, the reign of Christ for a thousand years, we will reign with him. In 2 Timothy 2:12, “if we suffer, we shall also reign together”. In Romans 8:17, “ if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him”. In 1 Corinthians 6:2, Paul reminds them: “Do ye not then know that the saints shall judge the world?” and then in verse 3 he states that we shall judge angels! But note that these are future matters.
Our portion now is to suffer; it is our preparation for reigning in the future. Because Christ has been rejected, the kingdom now takes a moral, inward form. It is now “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”; then it will take this form: “he shall shepherd the nations with an iron rod”.
Who is more representative of this period: Richard Wurmbrandt tortured for Christ for 14 years in a Communist prison, or a Christian with a seat in the parliament of the European Union? Wurmbrandt’s “involvement in politics” I believe to be wholly appropriate – he appeared before the US Senate and removed some of his clothing to show the marks of his sufferings.
What must a Christian government do?
If Christians should be in parliament, then it follows that the ideal situation would be that they should have a majority, and govern. Let us examine this scenario and see what they must do to represent the mind of God.
Which set of laws do they implement? The law as given by Moses, or the principles of the kingdom, as per Matthew chapters 5 -7? In 1 Timothy 1:8 -10 we are reminded that the law has its application to the lawless and insubordinate, etc., so we will go with the law of Moses minus the Jewish ceremonial aspects.
Now what does our Christian government have to do? Murderers, rapists, adulterers, witches (and there are several thousand of these in Australia,) sodomites and blasphemers must all be put to death! The gaols would have to be emptied because God never commanded that men should be incarcerated. Under the law of Moses, a wrongdoer was dealt with summarily. A thief was to repay and add 20%; if certain actions warranted the lash, there was an upper limit of 39; some crimes required stoning (to death) to show that all were expressing their horror; others were hung. It was “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, but none were locked up.
Now let us turn our attention to the publishing houses and the media with their outpouring of depravity. How many media outlets or TV programs would have to be closed down? Do we need to go any further with this area?
Someone may say that all this is too harsh. But if our hypothetical Christian government does not do this, then it is not representing God, it is compromising. This is exactly what Lot did when he sat in the gate of Sodom, that is, as a councillor. Lot, “distressed with the abandoned conversation of the godless… tormented his righteous soul day after day with their lawless works” – see 2 Peter 2:7-8. In contrast with Lot, Abraham his uncle was on the mountain, interceding with God on behalf of Sodom, the city that was about to be judged. This is described in Genesis 18:16-33.
This is the example for our time. The world is awaiting the judgment. “Good men” should indeed do something – intercede for all men and those in the place of government, which is what we began with in this article.