Source: Sherman Publications

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Spiritual Matters
Christians and the government

February 20, 2013

This Feb. 22 we mark a date of embarrassment in American government. On this date in 1902 two esteemed members of the United States senate got into a fistfight in the floor of the senate over bias expressed on the Philippine tariff bill.

The Philippine Tariff Bill? Really? A schoolyard fistfight about… the Philippines? How stupid can government get?

In many ways we are asking the same question today. What are they doing with our money? Can they simply legislate away individual rights? What should be the relationship of government and God-given institutions like the family?

Thomas Jefferson said, "Those are governed best who are governed least." The contemporary formula for government seems to ignore this wisdom.

So what are Christians to do about today's government? Ignore it? Defy it? Circumvent it? Kick "the bums out"? Has today's government abandoned principals of the founding fathers and therefore disqualified it from the obedience of the good Christian citizen?

No. If you are a Christian you simply cannot take that position.

The apostle Paul speaks very clearly of this in his letter to the people of Rome.

He says, "Everyone needs to be subject to the governing authorities because there is no authority except from God. Governments that exist have been instituted by God… resist the government and you resist what God has appointed…" (ch. 13)

Why does he say that? Why would he say obey a government that seems to be making decisions that so many Christians disagree with?

Because government serves an important purpose for God: government preserves order and God is a God of order. Governments carry our justice, punish evil, reward the righteous and keep anarchy from blowing up the community.

Governments are not always right, they do make terrible decisions that attack community and disregard justice (and Christians must clearly and strongly challenge overt government evil). But governments create community and community is a blessing from God that He wants for His people.

So taking the position that government is inherently evil – it is just not found in the bible.

This day in 1902 our government looked pretty ridiculous. But this day in 1732 George Washington was born – a man God powerfully used to establish an American government that blesses billions today. So let's rejoice in this gift of government from God. Like getting sox at Christmas we may not like really the gift. But it serves an important purpose; it is a gift that gives us the ability to be in community with each other – and with Our Creator. And that is a gift that is worth letting a couple of foolish senators bloody their noses for.

Bill Northend is a Lutheran Pastor at TheGatheringPlace in Davisburg.