And Nehemiah, who was governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God, do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.

Nehemiah 8:9

 

The concept of separation of our religious practice from our system and processes of governance is an invention of recent times in history. This was certainly not the way that God designed for it to be. In the establishment of His nation of Israel and among God’s chosen people, the Lord set it up so that there was a direct and inseparable connection between the people who were the governmental leaders such as kings, princes, and governors and the church as represented by priests and teachers of God’s Law. Even in these ancient times this was not the way that most of the world operated. Most countries were governed by rulers who used the services of their religious practitioners when it was convenient to consult them and listened only to those ideas and direction that suited their desires and pre-set wishes.

 

This is a picture of the world where Jesus lived, and by His days, even the leadership of Israel had changed so much that Nehemiah and Ezra would not have recognized the secularly oriented institution that was the temple, their church. These changes were not the result of positive evolution as they were caused by humanity’s on-going drive to separate itself from God and to establish our own concepts, ordinances, and practices as supreme on earth. Much of our modern concept of separation of church from state is the result of a contra movement away from the dominance of the secular over the religious in which the church and its leaders were simply substituted for kings and governors while continuing to operate the nation as an unholy and sub-righteous entity wherein the end goal was still personal power and gain. Therefore, people who were being oppressed by these ungodly religious leaders established laws and rules of governance that built up barriers between the influence of church and of state upon each other.

 

My proposition is that none of this is right. The Lord is still sovereign over the entire world, over our nations, and in our practice of faith and of governance. His Word is the final authority for all of the decisions that people need to make in order to operate our nations and to live as citizens of this world. To me this means that any and all national allegiances are subordinate to our loyalty to God and that the primary identity of a follower of Christ is that of disciple of the Living God rather than the one that is framed in by national citizenship. With this in mind, there is a very real and important place for the voices of God’s people in the halls of governance of our nations. The truth of God’s Word and the illuminating presence of His Spirit are essential in these places as decisions that impact the lives of people for good and for evil are made there on a daily basis. As people who know Christ and who follow Him through life, we are to be open and outspoken to our governmental leaders, we are also to be present in our halls of governance through prayer, views and opinions expressed, our votes, and by seeking out election to office. As the gathering on that day in ancient Israel suggests, governance is at its best when followers of Christ and secular leaders are gathered as one in order to lead the people along God’s path of righteousness and faith.

For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

Obadiah 15

 

The words of this ancient prophet have a very current ring to them. Although he spoke them almost 2,600 years ago, it sounds like he is shouting out a warning that needs to be given to our ears today. Perhaps very little has really changed in all of this time. Maybe we have not progressed as far as we would like to think? In fact, it could be true that our culture and our way of living in it have, in fact, regressed from even those dark days when God’s people were under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians. Whatever conclusion we might draw about the state of things in our times in contrast to those of people throughout history, the one fact that stands out clearly is that we people and our national governance live unrighteously far more readily and willingly than we listen to and obey God.

 

God has spoken, and we need to hear. The Lord sets out His desired responses to His Word, and we are required to follow. Each person is held accountable by God for the way that we respond to Him. God, the Father, has given us His Son, Jesus, as our only true and certain way into relationship with Him. Christ alone is our hope and our salvation. He brings renewal and restoration. This is true for each person individually, and it is also true for our nations and for all of Creation. The only real hope that any nation can have is found in following God and adhering to His righteous path. Yet, history tells us that nations seldom do this well. Governments are nothing more than temporary stewards of things that actually belong to God. Sadly, people in power rarely seek out Christ and His leading as their sole source of wisdom and insight when they seek to govern. Therefore, they will always make decisions that are formed and framed by the sort of human wisdom that leads to compromise and that misleads their people.

 

When our nations, states, and communities take action and pass laws that are contrary to God’s Word, people who know God can not just silently accept that outcome. This is true even when our culture says that our way of viewing what is righteous is too harsh and unloving or when the actions in question are framed in patriotic or nationalistic terms yet they stand in opposition to Christ and His purposes. This is the case when our government seeks to redefine sacred relationships such as marriage in terms that are not biblically accurate and when it devalues life by making the killing of the unborn a matter of personal choice and convenience. This is also true when we marginalize people by refusing to utilize our resources to benefit and build-up those who are in true need. We are guilty before God when we claim that we are seeking to end oppression yet we become violent oppressors ourselves.

 

This listing is incomplete, and the issues at hand are complex. Yet, God speaks very clearly about His response to our sinfulness. His time of judgment and final cleansing is very near. Christ will return, and He will purify and restore this world. God will reclaim all that has been broken and lost. However, our Lord does not want His people to wait for that to happen. He calls us to be active in bringing the truth, light, and love of His Kingdom to our world today. We may not change the outcomes of the ways that our leaders think and act; yet, Christ will be on view when we speak out in biblical truth. Our voices may not seem very loud in contrast to the roar of the crowd, but Christ will use our humble faith and trust for His purposes and for the glory of the Father. Truly, the day of the Lord is near, let Christ’s blessing be what is returned to each of our heads on that day.