For the longest time, my thoughts on government came from watching SNL skits. This certainly reflects my age a bit, but I sit here with a smile on my face thinking of some of the hilarious bits SNL has done over the years with presidential candidates or debates ... the Joyride w/ Ross Perot and James Stockdale, Dana Carvey and Will Ferrell playing George W. and George Sr., and the President Reagan Mastermind are some of my favorites. You can probably tell that I wasn't all that engaged in governmental at the time, but I sure did laugh a lot. But, as I've gotten older and have had kids, I'm certainly more interested in what goes on in Washington ... especially since I live 40 minutes away now!
At church yesterday, Pastor Mark gave a really good message on how our Christian faith can intersect with our government and what our role as followers of Jesus should be. It was really good. I just want to briefly share some thoughts from it:
1. We live in a broken world. Imagine a 4-way intersection with no stop signs, traffic light, or semblance of order. People would be on their best behavior, right? No accidents. No horns blaring. No "fingers" pointed. Yeah, right. We live in a world that is broken because of the effects of sin. Government is God's provision for the effects for mankind's fallenness ... to reward good and punish evil ... to help provide a sense of order. (Romans 13:2 - 4)
2. Broken people are in government office. Fallen people are in our government which means they are not perfect. Some are honest. Some are dishonest. Some are wise. Some ... not so much. They all make mistakes and yet God is still Sovereign and in control. God simply isn't in control of my world. He's in control of THE world. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us that "The king's heart is like stream of water directed by the LORD; He guides it wherever He pleases."
3. It's easy to joke and complain about our government. How about we pray for it instead. As followers of Jesus, we have the incredible opportunity and duty to pray for those in office. If God guides the "king's" heart "wherever He pleases," let's pray that God guides it in the way of wisdom and integrity and morality and ultimately toward Him. (1 Timothy 2:1 - 2)
4. Followers of Jesus have the opportunity to engage our government. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed." In our system of government, we have the incredible privilege of stating our opinion, of sharing our voice. We can express how we feel and can bring our Christian values in to the arena. Sometimes we'll see things go the way we desire and other times we will not. When it doesn't, remember number 5 ...
5. Followers of Jesus have the opportunity to be the best citizens. (Mark 12:13 - 14) Andy Stanley once said, "We can make a point or we can make a difference." It's easy to make a point. All you need is a sign or a megaphone or a Facebook account or a blog. But, making a difference ... that's much more difficult. To make a difference, we have to be willing to be involved and love our neighbors and sacrifice ... even with people who disagree with us or with whom we disagree. It can get messy and there are no easy answers. But, ultimately, we need to be a light in the darkness and be an arrow pointing to Jesus. Something Mark said was really powerful. "Sometimes Christians become so heavenly minded that we make no earthly difference." Let's make a difference.
6. Followers of Jesus can make a difference. Someone noted that democratic governments usually are not conquered from the outside. They usually crumble on the inside. They stated the following pattern:
These nations have progressed through the following sequence:
- From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
- From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage
- From Courage to Liberty
- From Liberty to Abundance
- From Abundance to Selfishness
- From Selfishness to Complacency
- From Complacency to Apathy
- From Apathy to Dependency
- From Dependency back into Bondage
Number 5 is hi lighted because this is where Christians can draw a line in the sand and say "No further." Abundance doesn't have to lead to selfishness. As followers of Jesus we recognize that abundance comes from God and can lead to generosity and caring and selflessness because of how Jesus has changed our heart. We are responsible for pursuing Jesus and allowing Him to be the center of our lives. Love and generosity are just a natural result of that.
It's easy to complain and, those of us who vote have that right. But, are we looking at the "sawdust" in everyone else' eyes and neglecting the "plank" in our own? (Matthew 7:3 - 4) Let's try to remember that "our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."(Ephesians 6:10) When we make "flesh and blood" the enemy, our real enemy always wins. Let's remember who the real enemy is "and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears." (1 Peter 2:12)