I have written a lot about Christians and government from a not-so-popular point of view. What then is the purpose of government, and if Christians are not to occupy its ranks, as I now believe the Bible teaches, then, who is? Christians, for many years now, are united in their belief that it is their responsibility to get believers into the government, the military, and the court system, but is that belief Biblical? Can that belief stand-up under honest Biblical inquiry? I used to believe that the Bible supported political involvement and accepted without serious thought the standard party line, but once the examination started those beliefs fell like a house-of-cards and it devastated my former belief.
Two Classes of People
All Christians would acknowledge that there are only two classes of people in the world: the converted and the un-converted. They would also acknowledge that a large part of those who are un-converted are good, moral, just, humane, and honorable people. Likewise, there are large populations of those who are just the opposite. If there were no government the latter would make quick ruin of the former, and the world would lapse into utter chaos. For the purpose of restraining these immoral and dishonorable people God ordained world governments (Romans 13), and the “Caesars” of these governments “bear not the sword in vain” against such as would disturb the peace of their kingdom. Christians recognize that governments are divine institutions, and that it is the Christians duty to honor and obey them in all things that do not conflict with their allegiance to their own King and God.
The Incongruity of Law and Gospel
The Bible, as a whole, is recognized by Christians as the “Word of God.” They recognize the division of the Bible into its two parts: Old Testament and New Testament; but Christians are perplexed when they read the Old Testament and see that war was sanctioned and even commanded, then they read the New Testament where all of this is contrary to God’s will. It is here that the incongruity begins. It appears that God has contradicted Himself. Skeptics rejoice in the pretext that – the Bible is false – and they reject it for lack of discerning responses from believers. Christians fail to make the proper distinction between what is “Law” and what is “Gospel” and in so doing they make the New Testament subservient to the Old Testament. They reason falsely that, since God is immutable, what God allowed in the Old Testament He must also allow in the New Testament, and thereby conclude that since God allowed His followers to engage in war then, it is okay for them to engage in war, politics, and government, now.
The Old Testament Serves the New Testament
These Christians are labeled by the government, when conscientious objector status is considered, as “Just War” Christians or “warring” Christians. Others, such as myself, acknowledge the inconsistency that exist, but also understand that the Old Testament has given way to the New Testament, and that every new revelation of God in Scripture has given clarity to His perfect will, and that which was first given, must give way to that, which came later, as prophesied (Heb. 8:6-13).
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Paul explains this in terms we can understand (Heb. 9:16-17) when he compares the two testaments to – wills – that a testator draws up. The Old (last will and) Testament which was symbolic, and was symbolically ratified, by the death of bulls and goats, because the legitimate testator being still alive, was done away with by the amendment of His will (Hebrews 8:6-8), the New (last will and) Testament, and it, being ratified by the actual death of the legitimate Testator (Jesus). With the death of Jesus, the New (last will and) Testament, was forever made binding, perpetual, enduring, and everlasting. The Old Testament is therefore made submissive to the New Testament by the death of Jesus, never to be amended. So, the New Testament is the final binding document revealing Christ’s will for His people, and consequently participation in war, politics, and the judicial system, all of which are contrary to His Gospel and spirit, and forbidden to Christians.
A Different Spirit
When some Samaritans rejected Jesus (Luke 9:54), James and John requested permission to call down fire from heaven to consume them, but Jesus,
“Turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’”
At this point the question has to be asked as to whether or not Christians who promote “Just War” or serve on juries, which regularly condemn people, “. . .know what kind of spirit they are of”? Is it possible that so many lack an understanding of the foundational principle and rule that characterizes Christ’s life and Kingdom, which is laid out so plainly in His Sermon on the Mount and other places? Due to this incongruity these people do not separate the Kingdom of God from the kingdoms of this world, and the consequence is the violation of the principles that have characterized true believers down through history and that must characterize true believers today. The one characteristic we recognize that is most consistent with Christlikeness in His Apostles and the primitive Church is non-resistance to evil, because this is the spirit of Christ of which they were.
The Skewed Vision of Disobedience
Because of man’s fall his whole point of reference and orientation was changed. His eyes were cast downward and he lost his spirit of meekness and peace, and its related life of love, and in its stead arose self-consciousness and self-desires, and it is now these which motivate his life and actions. Self-preservation and selfishness are the driving forces of men as we witness on a daily basis. Without sinful self-love there would be no war, injustice, or violence. Where this principle of self-love is present we can expect the personal and corporate quest of self-preservation to dictate our actions and that of our Nation, and not only that, but we can expect it to affect our understanding of the Gospel of Truth and Peace, and so twist it to accommodate our desires of “Just War,” political action, worldly justice, personal peace, prosperity, and power.
The Purpose of God Ordained Government
It was this unbridled desire that made government necessary, so God, in His mercy, instituted governments to maintain a semblance of peace until such time that men would come to Christ and have no need of governance by men, and rest in the all sufficient principals of His New Kingdom, the principals of non-resistance to evil, and of overcoming evil with good, just as their Lord modeled in their presence.
Government of the World and for the World
Mostly, good and honorable men of the world, having justice stamped into their conscience, naturally without God, gravitate to the rule of law, which is at the core of all governments. Rulers recognize the evil of exaggerated self-love and form governments to regulate these extremes expressions in society. Other – more “just” – world rulers, even regulate renegade rulers who slip outside the common bounds of justice and threaten world peace. This force is stamped into the souls of all men who, if not self-governed, are governed by men who are given the power to enforce the common good. This sense of what is right and wrong is the key in God’s appeal to men to seek the truth. The governments of men, only result in death, and are only meant to communicate a deep seated need for freedom, and are a futile effort to lead men to true peace and harmony.
The New Covenant of Peace and Love
Christ’s introduction of the Kingdom of God with its law of non-resistant love, humility, timidity, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and self-sacrifice is the unexpected answer we receive from God’s Word, if we will receive it in it purity, freedom, and spirit. It is not the answer of mankind, who require the law of an eye-for-an-eye retributive justice; it is the answer from Heaven that turns our world upside down with the turning of the cheek, and brings with it all the anger of a vengeful Satan to stop its advance. The key of wanting to know right and wrong has its starting place in Kingdom truth. To separate out all the many and varied ideas of truth from pure truth is futile without some inside knowledge of true truth. Christ is our Insider who has shown us through His words and life the path we must follow. His words and ways do not make sense to our carnal flesh, but they are the truth, and if we will not twist or change His words, but through faith accept what He has shown us then we will have our hearts desire, and experience the perfect liberty He has promised us that no government of men can understand, provide, or take away.
The Old Testament, sound reason, and the pleading of our hearts all harmonize with Christ’s teachings, if properly understood. If our understanding of the Old Testament should remain dark and our minds blocked, and we are unable to synchronize the teaching of the two books, we must yet give to Christ His proper place as Master and Teacher, because we are directed to take every thought captive to the obedience of Him.