Hope In God, Not Government

The_Shepherds011When I was in school, our history teachers taught that citizenship required responsibility. We are responsible to pay our taxes, keep the law, and vote. Personally, I could hardly wait. I looked at voting as a solemn job but also as a sort of rite of passage into adulthood.

When the time finally arrived, some tarnish had stained the once shiny responsibility. The US government was doing things that were not so heroic and it didn’t seem as if it made a difference which party was in the White House or in control of Congress. They all seemed the same to me.

Since then our country and our political parties have been pushed further apart. We’ve been relegated to red and blue states, the liberal Democrats or the right-wing Republicans. No longer does it seem the President presides over the country. Rather he or she is concerned with satisfying the party base.

In many respects this situation is a result of a significant number of citizens not voting. Those would be the people who thought, like me years ago, that it doesn’t matter who wins the office—things will be much like they’ve always been.

Well, no. If this last year has shown us nothing, it has shown us that much change that cuts against the wishes of the majority can be foisted on the public by the government.

In an effort to respond, many people have determined they must get the right person in the White House. Then all will be well.

I still believe voting is a responsibility of every citizen. And I believe who is in the White House matters. But I do not believe America will ever have a government functioning according to God’s law. I’d be happy to see it function according to the Constitution, but that seems to be a fading hope as well.

No surprise, really. The United States is not a theocracy. We have a collection of people running government, no matter who wins. And one thing is true about us all—we sin.

Don’t misunderstand. I’d rather have a God-fearing statesman who wants to serve the nation and its people than a power-hungry blowhard, any day. But the truth is, getting the right person in office is not going to initiate revival in our land.

Only one thing can change the direction we’re headed, and it isn’t government.

Government can pass all the gun laws it wants, but that won’t change the hearts of the people who wish to kill. Government can de-fund Planned Parenthood, but that won’t stop people from engaging in illicit sex and terminating pregnancies that may result.

Government can pass sweeping immigration reform, but it can’t engender love for neighbors.

Government can establish welfare programs and pass laws against hate crimes and bigotry, but it can’t stop the greed and selfishness and biases residing in the human heart.

It’s time we learn: we need to put our hope in God, not in government. Sure, we should vote, and we should even pray that’s God’s mercy will be on us so that the next President will lead us wisely. But we should then go about the business of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Years ago I memorized the verses in Luke 2 that tell the Christmas story, so this year I decided to relearn them. I noticed something really interesting. After the angels had given the shepherds the good news that a Savior had been born, they decided to go see this baby. They didn’t seem to be doing so as skeptics, however.

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” (v. 15)

Key is the idea that they wanted to see “this thing that has happened.” They weren’t wondering if it indeed had happened. They believed it before they went.

When they got to Bethlehem and found the baby, just as the angel had said, they didn’t stay silent. They started broadcasting the news:

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. (vv 17-18)

The shepherds received the news and believed, the others heard the news and wondered.

Maybe our sharing the gospel will only ever make people wonder, but that’s a start.

On the other hand, our staying silent can perpetuate the idea that there’s a government solution just around the bend, that there will be someone who can fix immigration, the economy, racial prejudice, terrorism, health care, the Iranian drive for nuclear power, problems with North Korea, abortion, and on and on.

The fact is, the next President might be able to make a difference and point us in the right direction in some of those areas, but we don’t know what the future holds. Our hope cannot reside in the “right” President or in the government doing more or less. Christians above all people should keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith. He alone is faithful in all circumstances.

Here’s what my nephew said in an article in The Federalist related to this topic:

America, as G.K. Chesterton quipped, is a nation with the soul of a church. Like a church, we are founded on beliefs and have a sense of purpose and mission to our collective existence. Like the church, America tries to welcome people from anywhere of any background so long as they sign up to our creed. . .

It also introduces a temptation to American politicians. Because we have the soul of a church, politicians can easily confuse church with state. The mission of the church and the mission of the United States are different (although they can sometimes be complementary, as when the United States champions religious liberty abroad).

The two missions seem to be drifting apart as American culture becomes increasingly non-Christian. But regardless, we need to remember, as Moore says, “the end goal of the gospel is not a Christian America. The end goal of the gospel is redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation and language in a New Jerusalem.” (emphasis mine)

It’s not just the politicians who sometimes confuse church and state. Voters sometimes do too by putting our hope in the government instead of in God.

Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 7:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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