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I believe it necessary to pick up from last week’s column “Who’s your king?” with the recognition that while using the choice of Saul as Israel’s first king as an illustration, it appeared I was making the case that he was solely the people’s choice, not God’s. Several e-mails from studious readers properly took me to task, so let me assert that Scripture is clear. God guided Samuel, and in His sovereign plan directed him to anoint Saul (1 Samuel 9).
What cannot be overlooked is that the entire process was a result of the people rejecting the authority of God over the nation and God granting them their first wish.
The consequences were as clear and catastrophic then as they have been in recent decades in this country as we have done the same. Many point to the U.S. Supreme Court banning prayer in government schools (Engel v. Vital, 1962) and outlawing the Bible (Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 1963) as key turning points.
Others look back to 1925 in the famous “won the battle and lost the war” case that occurred in Dayton, Tenn., as lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan clashed in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” (State v. Scopes, 1926) over the teaching of evolution in schools.
The reality is that our struggle against spiritual, moral, cultural and political decline is simply the latest chapter in the war begun when Lucifer rebelled against God, followed by persuading Adam and Eve to disobey God and introducing sin into the permanent condition of the world. Since that day man has been inventing ways to circumvent God, make Him in our image, or ignore Him altogether.
What we do know is that when men are governed by the God recognized by the ancestors of Western Civilization as Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy Trinity of Christianity – love, self-sacrifice, sharing, good works, peace, cultural transformation and political liberty are the fruits.
In spite of numerous periods where those claiming the name of Christ violated much if not all He taught either ecclesiastically or politically, the historical evidence is that when followers of Jesus Christ live out “all He commanded them” (Matthew 28:22), they brought life, light, hope and bottom-up transformation to the nations.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. …” (Proverbs 29:2) – because our lives, families, property and freedom are protected and the wrongdoers justly punished. I urge pastors and churches to concentrate on this critical point. Please read and refer to Romans 13 as needed:
Godly governing is ministry for people’s good and God’s glory.
It is NOT a distraction to the Great Commission but a component of it. It was originally understood by the Christian founders of this country as an integral part of our ministry individually and collectively.
One of the most influential of our founders who never actually set foot on this continent was the Rev. John Robinson, the “Pastor to the Pilgrims.” He was mentor to many, including John Winthrop, author of “Of Plimouth Plantation” and “A Model of Christian Charity” (both vital insights into the faith and character of that courageous congregation) and the first governor of Massachusetts.
Robinson stayed in England to shepherd those “left behind” but admonished Winthrop and the people embarking on the Mayflower that when they arrived it would be important to establish civil authority.
Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, lest your wisdom and godliness appear not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations; not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God’s ordinance for your good. … (as related in “The American Covenant,” Dr. Marshall Foster, emphasis added)
Out of that group came the Mayflower Compact and later the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the two first written documents of governance that became the cornerstone for every liberty and freedom we have enjoyed since.
GOV’ERN – “To direct and control, as the actions or conduct of men, either by established laws or by arbitrary will; to regulate by authority; to keep within the limits prescribed by law or sovereign will. … Every man should govern well his own family.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
As stated by colonial leader William Penn, “Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants.” Our tyrants have taken the form of men like King George III pre-Constitution and 545 U.S. citizens (435 U.S. House members, 100 U.S. Senate members, nine U.S. Supreme Court justices and one U.S. president) post-Constitution – as well as thousands of lesser officeholders – all chosen by you and me.
It is critical that pastors once again embrace the sacred duty to choose leaders who will rule in the fear of God as an essential ministry of our local church. We must begin by re-educating most pastors on what Scripture says about it, how our ancestors of the faith have carried it out and how – whether we like it or not – we have the weight of governing on every one of our shoulders as citizens.
Yes, men of God, that means being involved in the election process at all levels.
It is truly up to us whether the people rejoice because the righteous are in governing authority, or just continue to be angry and frustrated because of the acts of tyrants. The larger question, however, is not about the tyrants. It is whether, as Penn challenged us, we will be governed by God.