Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Ordained?

Following my post regarding the response from Christians and Christian organizations about the recent health care reform vote in our legislature, I have received several dissenting opinions via e-mail (still can't figure out why people don't just use the comment section on the blog). Most of the response to this vote I read came from an e-mail strand from a friend of mine who happens to be a physician. The heart of this e-mail was his apology to his friends and his deceased father regarding what has happened to health care in the U.S. His father was alive and active in the forming of the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the U.S. Basically he was wondering what response he would have for his father if his father asked him what his generation had done to help the less fortunate of the country. It came off as heartfelt and sincere yet this e-mail combined with the posting I referenced above sparked some very harsh words and what appeared to be anger. I have not responded to those e-mails for the most part, as none of them have necessarily embodied the subject of the original post. That being said, there was one statement made that I found particularly bothersome and that I feel warrants some cleaning up.

The statement I refer to came from an e-mail in which the author felt somehow singled out by the posting. I will take this space to say that the post was written to no one particular person and not one particular group/organization. The statement made though was this: "God does not ordain the President of the United States." Actually, scripture says quite the opposite.

There is a number of text to discuss this matter with. We could discuss Timothy 2:1, 2. We could discuss Paul's instruction to the preacher in Titus 3:1. We also could discuss 1 Peter 2: 13-17 whereby we learn the fruit which comes from doing what I was urging in the post in question. "Fear God. Honour the emperor."

However, for this discussion I believe a look into Romans 13 will serve our purpose. It is in Romans 13 that we find Paul's instruction to the Roman church beginning in verse 1: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good."

Allow me to preface the rest of what is to be said by saying that at no point will I say that this passage is pointing us to be completely obedient to the powers of a nation. I am saying unequivocally that Paul, in this writing inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling us that the leaders that are place in a country at any given time are only there because God placed, or ordained, them to be there. This holds true for the Republican who can't stand Obama as it holds true for the Democrat who deplored George Bush. Should God had not wanted Obama to be the president of this great country, then he would not be the president of this great country. Rather this ordination is a blessing or a curse, time will tell but in the meantime we must look at Paul's instruction further.

If one reads the Epistles or any of the works of the first centruy Christians (Justin Martyr, Tertullian, or Athenagoras) one thing is clear. The first century Christian church, our standard, believed that the official teaching of the church should be that obedience and prayers be offered to the rulers of their nation. Let us not forget the tyranny and persecution which they lived through.

The same holds true with Paul. The people he was writing this letter to were historically rebellious against civil power, believing that the only authority and king of the Jews was God. This affected their obedience to paying taxes and some historical accounts, Barclay's in particular, refers to them as nationalistic, dagger-bearing terrorists. They lashed out not only against the Roman government but even their Jewish brethren who dared pay taxes to the Roman government. Paul found this, as I find the current tone from the American Evangelical movement, to be a complete abandonment of any Christian conduct. Paul was striving to say that being a good citizen, even in first century Jerusalem, and Christianity were to go hand in hand.

Question: Will it be possible for the Christians of this country to totally disassociate themselves with the government? If you live in a society, like it or not, you are part of that society. Without seeking your proper documents and setting up residence under another flag, you are not going to be able to cancel your subscription of being an American. We must forget what benefits that includes. However, as citizens, be you atheist or Christian, it is not reasonable that we would expect to relish in the benefits of our citizenship and not have to fulfill any of our civil duties. God did not and I dare say would not, set His children up to navigate themselves through such a difficult scenario.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits we as citizens should be thankful for is protection. Be it by our military, who we so honor and even pray for in our churches, or animal control protecting us from wild animals, the state provides us security. Let us not forget that the nation we live in, or any nation/state for that matter, is basically a group of people who have agreed to intermingle with one another by properly keeping within the boundaries of certain laws and limits. No more, no less. These restrictions or laws are in place to keep the strong and selfish from dominating the weaker.

That last sentence is what I want to focus on for a moment. Are we as Christians that stronger or the weaker in this country? Are we the fearful or the feared? Ten years ago I would have been confident in stating in a blanket manner that the Christians in America are strong and are confident in Christ's promise that He has not left us with a spirit of fear. Today though, as I read the shouts of fear of the future & uncertainty of the upcoming I see a certain lack of faith in God to carry the faithful through no matter what happens. I see compromise and spite, a deadly combination.

Barclay states that Paul saw the Roman Empire as the "divinely ordained instrument to save the world from chaos. Take away that Empire and the world would disintegrate into flying fragments." Paul knew that it was the Roman Empire itself, as evil and persecuting as it was, that gave the Christian missionary ANY chance in the first century to do his work. In Heaven, souls will be bonded by Christian love. We aren't in Heaven ladies and gentlemen and we are not promised Heaven here on Earth (sorry all you Prosperity Gospel lovers). Therefore, since all of us are not tied by Christian love it is the government, the laws, the customs that bind us together. Just as it was the Roman Empire preventing the world from drifting into lawlessness, despite their morals, the U.S. today does the same thing. Paul knew this and so do we if we search scripture. The nation in which you live, regardless of the leaders and their choices, are an instrument of God. Just as the Prince of Persia was set in place in Isaiah to return the tribe of Judah to their home, he did not know that God knew before he allowed him to become leader that this was why God allowed such a thing (and he may never have), our leaders, to their knowledge or not, are doing some part in fulfilling God's work.

It is our duty as Christians to HELP, not devise plans, protests, civil disobedience against them. Help is up for debate but I will contend at this time that no help we can offer is greater than the prayers of the saints. Paul tells you in no uncertain terms, should we resist, we are literally resisting what God has appointed or ordained. Should we search our hearts in honesty we are going to find that our desire to revolt is based on selfishness, Satan's tool, not Christian beliefs. This is why Paul concluded his passage in Romans 13 by stating: "But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

Pictured below are two picture, one being a group of protesting Christians casting judgment. The second is a group in quiet, peaceful prayer. Ask yourself, which do you think would be more likely to have an audience with your gov't leaders at their discretion. Secondly, ask yourself which group you would want to be associated with. Third, ask yourself which has the Father's ear at the given moment.


Joy said...

Just to add something: Jeremiah commanded the Israelites taken into exile to Babylon to follow and not resist. It was told them that should they resist God's will, then they would end up worse off.
Nebuchadnezzar was an instrument of judgment on the people of Israel ordained through God's will. Not only that, Jeremiah admonished them - through God's command - not to hide themselves away from the society. Jeremiah 29:4-7 states, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Now, why would Jeremiah say that? Was it not because God knew he would eventually turn Nebuchadnezzar over to them when their judgment had been served? A few verses later the Bible states: "For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:10-11). Therefore, they (the Israelites) continued with life and were told not to despair, because God's plans were greater than their own.
People either tend to forget it, or willingly look over it or have not studied the Word to know what it says.

Dave Brumley said...

Thanks Joy. There are a ton of scripture that points to living in subjection to the gov't. Is it a lack of faith that makes it so hard?

Joy said...

I believe it's because Christians have come to the expectation that they deserve only the good from God. However, Hebrews 12 points out that God will and does bring about punishment on us for our own good. And one way He has consistently brought about punishment or blessing is through those in power - all of them being placed there through His sovereign will.
Again, we want only the good, and we want to run from the punishment. Hopefully, we will learn that trying to avoid and run in the other direction may have us ending up worse off than before - just as for the Israelites who were warned not to resist their being sent into exile.
Can we make our voices heard that we don't like it? Sure. But all of the ranting and raving and blatant disregard for those in power will not "convince" God that His will is wrong, because it doesn't bend to our agendas. The Israelites were commanded to continue on and pray on the city's behalf - not form a picket line or refuse to pay taxes or attempt a takeover of government.

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