Even though he and I disagree on several things, I have to say that Guy has posted very thoughtful, very godly comments throughout these posts. I prepared a lengthy reply to a recent comment of his, and decided it would be better to post it here.
Guy wrote —
If i witnessed such an event first-person (say the Babylonian captivity), wouldn’t it appear to me that government was wicked and i needed to rise up and stop it somehow? Yet unbeknownst to me, God had sent that wicked-appearing government to achieve some end of His.
Maybe. But in the case of the Babylonians and Assyrians, God sent his prophets to plainly tell his people what to do and what would happen if they didn’t comply. God’s people weren’t left to speculate.
Just so, Jesus gave very specific instructions for how to respond to the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans.
There are plenty of other examples where God said regarding an invading army: don’t worry; I’ll handle it.
But there are also examples of God telling his people to raise an army and handle it by force of arms. And there are all kinds of examples in between.
Of course, the United States is not the new Israel. Therefore, I don’t see God’s commands to obliterate the Amalekites as authority for governmental violence nor do I see God’s commands to let God handle it as prohibitions when applied to other governments. Israel is a special case — and if the analogies apply at all, they apply to the Kingdom, not the U.S. Therefore, I’m not inclined to build my case from the violence perpetrated by Israel at God’s command.
The first role of government is to protect its people from evil insiders and outsiders. If government does not do this, it has failed of its essential purpose — and that requires that it use the power of the sword.
We are repeatedly told that God created government for our benefit, and if government was not created to punish evil and reward good, what did God make it for?
The question, to me, therefore is not whether the government can use violence to defend its citizens, but whether Christians may participate in government’s so doing. As the government, when it rewards good and punishes evil, is acting for God, I see no sin in so doing — and I see a lot of problems with turning government over to nonbelievers.
i just don’t see where Christians took it upon themselves to target the structures and functions of government as part of their work. i don’t see where they saw “loving your neighbor” as implying this as part of their job.
The essence of “love your neighbor” is the Golden Rule — do unto others. It’s not merely refusing to murder, it’s taking action.
(1 John 3:16-18) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Sometimes love compels action.
We see in the OT prophets seeking to change the governmental structures over and over.
(Isa 10:1-2) Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.
Isaiah is criticizing the government for the laws it made. We should encourage the government to do its proper, God-given role and discourage the government from acting otherwise.
But i do fear that if we become lobbyists, we likely set ourselves up to ask the government to do our (the church’s) job for us.
Agreed. It’s a grave danger. But what of a law that oppresses the poor. Why not cry out against it as Isaiah did?
It’s essential that we stop confusing the USA with the Kingdom. It’s not the government’s job to seek and save the lost. And we shouldn’t expect the government to help us teach the gospel. That’s just not the job God gave it.
But it is the job of the church, I think, to declare unjust laws as unjust. I think that’s part of our job as God’s people. After all, if we don’t declare the will of God to the government, who will?
For example, many governments in the world traffic in orphans by charging exhorbitant fees for adoption. I think we should ask the U.S. government and the U.N. to act on behalf of children (and God) by encouraging a worldwide treaty banning large fees for adoption and encouraging adoption across national borders when a nation can’t care for its own children.
Only the governments of these nations can change those laws, and they won’t be changed unless a modern-day Isaiah stands up and declares wickedness wicked.
You see, I think the modern church has erred in seeing the government as an enforcer of morals while ignoring our duty to stand over against the government when it acts to oppress the poor and defenseless. Rather, we’ve confused patriotism and nationalism with Christianity and so have become blind to governmental wrongs. Indeed, worse yet, we’ve bought the politicians’ lies when they tell us to vote for our own self-interest, as though we should selfless in church and selfish in the voting booth. It’s not so.