Would Jesus shut down the government? #congress #shutdown

October 1, 2013

Now that I have your attention, let us agree that the headline is misleading and highly manipulative. I am anxiously looking forward to somebody’s biblical analysis that will prove the federal shutdown to be part of the divine punishment for … well, you name it. Honestly, America has a lot of punishment coming.

But you cannot easily say that some modern event is traceable to some biblical principle or prophesy. Yes, God works in the world and he sets up human governments, and brings others toppling down. There is an eternal purpose being worked out here and some of it is hinted in the pages of scripture, but we must be careful.

With a due sense of caution, let’s try to think about the shutdown of many federal government services in biblical terms. This is a political question, so I want to be sure to stay out of partisan disputes. This national train wreck is to a very large degree the result of deep divisions among factions that are also very personal. How we treat each other is a moral issue. In this hard situation, Christians have a positive message.

Unfortunately, over the past 30 years, or so, it has become common the demean those who hold different viewpoints. Fair disclosure demands you be informed that I have frequently been on the receiving end of the verbal abuse. The name calling happens on a two-way street, so everyone is due criticism. For goodness sake, we are seeking insight and, now of all times, the last thing anybody needs is finger-pointing over who got called the worse names. Let us stipulate that things have been bad all around.

So what? Well, there is that little matter of Gen 1.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27, ESV)

Man is a little bit like god. He is similar, or in the divine “likeness.” Man is formed out of the ground. He is body and spirit. God and man both communicate. This is an attribute that makes humanity distinct. No other creature communicates with the volume and variety of the human person. Before the fall, God and man had a perfect face-to-face relationship. This is exactly what God wants, and it is what human beings need to become competent custodians of the material world.

Since the entry of sin, God communicates with man by way of revelation. That can be done through nature or by inspired scripture. Man talks to God in prayer. The Eternal is working on a program of restoration. Christians believe that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice made it possible for God and man to enjoy a harmonious relationship.

The point of all this is that mankind is unique and has a particular duty toward mutual respect and kindness. In his book Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard spends several chapters looking into Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. After dealing with the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-12), he asks how should our righteousness exceed the scribes and the Pharisees? That bunch was very big on keeping small points of the law (of course all of the law is important) and parading around to show what extraordinary law-keepers they were. The problem with the Pharisees is that their hearts were not into it. All that rigid observance was for show.  According to Jesus (v. 20), it is necessary for anybody who wants citizenship in the kingdom of heaven to have the right kind of heart, the interior religion.

Willard proposes that the Sermon is a self-contained unit and that it is deliberately organized in a particular order. Imagine that, Jesus did things in order! There is a concept. Anyway, anger is item number one of the agenda of negative traits. Anger is the moral equivalent of murder (v. 21-22). If you believe anything Jesus ever said is trustworthy, anger is very serious business. The person who is angry is subject to judgment. The one who says “you fool” is subject to the “hell of fire” (v. 22).

Anger is the kind of unchecked emotion that would kill somebody if no one were looking. Anger seeks to belittle and destroy. Anger wants to dominate and to intimidate all on-lookers. Anger is pride gone wild. It is an expression of egotism that throws itself up into the face of God. It is an intolerable sin. Now, ask yourself this question; “how much anger do I perceive in American politics? How much derision? How much insult?”

It would be very hard for a Christian to hold public office, and if you ever wonder why our viewpoint has lost credibility, now you know. Forget about the lying (we will catch that some other day), a Christian is forbidden to take part in killing another person’s reputation.

Yes, American politics has always been bad. George Washington saw his own image burned by unhappy crowds, and he is supposed to be just about the best President we ever had. The press has been ugly. The debates have often been personally destructive, but I would contend that today there is a greater use of the name-killing gotcha’.

But isn’t that the way the game is played? Back in the days of segregation, “good” southerners used to excuse their association with racists and racism by saying, “you can’t do good if you don’t get elected.” They got right down in the sewers and that might have been alright when all there was down there was a little human feces. Today, they add in hazardous chemicals and a little radioactive waste on the side. People die in the political sewer.

What is a Christian to do? Do we sit at home and hide in the basement? That is hardly any way to be “salt” and “light.” Christians have to start taking part and it is necessary to recognize the political poison for what it is. Christians may never succumb to anger, name calling, or personal attacks. This is not the recipe for success. Expect to get your brains beaten out. Expect to be beaten without mercy, and be nailed to a cross. isn’t that just what they did to Jesus?

Doing what Jesus requires will make things happen. We are not able to see from here exactly what might take place, but it is bound to bring more people into God’s kingdom. The martyrs of the early church had no way of knowing how much they inspired others to faith. Leave the final victory to Jesus. His promises are explicit and his followers will rule with him. It will be the right kind of government; just and merciful in the perfect proportions.

The day will come when Jesus comes back in triumph to shut down every human government. In the meantime, as Christians seek to be more Christlike in every respect, the hardness of heart that plagues so many of our neighbors may begin to ease. People can live together with respect and patience. The door will be open for the gospel to be heard and to touch the hearts of self-righteous and murdering people.


One Response to “Would Jesus shut down the government? #congress #shutdown”

  1. Dustin Says:

    Just remember when asking ‘what would Jesus do?’ Freaking out and flipping tables is always an option.

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