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Mike Anderson: How should Christians then govern?

 

We need some historical and biblical perspective on the increasing, solidifying, and now dangerous political zeal of many fellow Christians. Let’s run through the past and see how history confirms biblical principles so we Christians can remember, and non-Christians may know, what is expected of Jesus’ disciples regarding political power and also find that theopolitical governing inevitably fails.

We’ll start with Constantine who ushered in Christianity to become the state Roman religion after becoming emperor in 306. Then after nearly 1,000 years as a republic and empire Rome was sacked in 410. There were many factors to the empire’s disintegration, but Christianity’s final years as the state church didn’t correct the culture’s problems, divisions or the empire’s final demise even though the clergy had gained supreme influence over state powers. For example, when Bishop Ambrose (340–397 CE) threatened to withhold the sacraments, Emperor Theodosius had to do the penance the Bishop had ordered.

Through the following Medieval times Christian witness came through much humbler means at first: scattered but effective monasteries. War-like Christian Byzantium continued with conquering zeal and endless troubles until being conquered itself by Islam in 1453. And, clearly, most of the geographic roots of the early Church‘s outposts and influences are now also in Muslim or political strongmen’s hands. Centuries of European kingdoms ruled by the Christian divine right of kings engaging in too often and too long wars and the persecution of heretics and Jews (the latter our tutors and fathers of faith) are now toppled or neutered by the then increasing hopes for curative change through a growing alternative: a secular, democratic strain of the Enlightenment (resulting in the much needed separation of our church and state). And, of course, Old Testament history had already taught us about the high recidivism rate of unholy governments before the Christian Era’s repetition of it.



This telling of history is important. Because it’s telling. It’s shouting for Christians to hear the clear and repeated delivery of history’s own confirmation of Jesus’ humble words that “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Yet, here we are in America three millennia later with too many of God’s people again saying, “Now we want a king to be our ruler” (1 Samuel 8:5) and thereby refusing God’s desire not for them to be like other nations and to rule directly the hearts of His people. How perfectly President Trump’s psyche fulfilled that unbiblical desire. Trump, as with too many Old Testament church rulers, “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (multiple Old Testament verses).




So I sometimes fear worse might come from American Christendom’s political and regulatory aspirations to dominate government, perhaps, with another Cromwell, Pope Innocent IV or Ahab; truly, as with Ahab’s cult worship, many Americans are now commonly using the word “cult” to describe the fertility of rebellion in the Republican Christianity they’re witnessing.

Centuries of European Christendom with its fruitless, brutal crusades, inquisitions, and malice in the New World, despite its bright spots of reforms, martyrs and saints, finally culminated into a devolved state of impotent spirituality and very ineffectual governing against staggering evil: the Nazis. Unlike America, Europe’s churches have been quite empty ever since, testaments to what seems, if the zeal for and focus on Christian earthly power continues, to just be delayed here.

For those who believe in Jesus, as I do, it is well worth remembering that we believe He demonstrated power over disease, evil spirits, food and wine production, the sea and the weather and even death. Yet He never chose to demonstrate power over government. Do we think He wasn’t able even without the huge Beatlemania-like crowds that followed Him? Shouldn’t we remember that Satan had tempted Jesus with just such political power in the desert? Truly, this deserves our attention! Rather, Jesus went to the center of His government to be arrested, humiliated, spit upon, tortured and to die by a church instigated, example setting, cruel death while self-regarding disciples had believed He would take over, wanting to sit on his left and right to help rule and rid Roman oppression. To be fair, those disciples realized their mistake.

But do we Christians in America now? Aren’t we also in some way sending Christ to the cross by our current great need for political expediencies by rejecting Who is already truly in charge and choosing a Barabbas instead because we believe bleeding heart liberals are becoming heartless, blood thirsty, autocratic Romans looking for Christians to arrest? Why has such fearfulness blinded us to want a Trump as our nation’s savior? Are we too like the Zealots of Jesus’ time who actually did expedite persecution by the Romans and the destruction of the temple?

By the bottom up, upside-down, inverted, humble ways of Jesus, He overturned and enveloped all earthly authority, not by rebellion or by multiple political battles against the culture; we’ve proven that way only hardens not heartens people. He did it with parables and with His personification of power from the core of the universe that displayed truly transformational compassion, healing, forgiveness, and with teachings of love and sacrifice for your neighbor and altogether revealing the very nature and example of His Kingdom’s governance “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

As Christians in America we have a precious ability to vote, protest and hold public office. We should, of course, but please remember that Jesus’ choices didn’t benefit Himself, they always benefited Others. And remember also the peaceful knowledge that “the government will be on His shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6) and a common part of our liturgy: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe.” He is Emmanuel, God with us … now … and not governing from shifting sands of some capital city. His government is set up to reign in ambassadorial hearts expanding the wisdom of His Kingdom: “wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, then peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield, full of compassion and good deeds, and without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17). This is our voters’ guide! This, not a Trump, is God’s divine purpose for a nation. This is the way to make God’s lavishing love great again.

So this is how Christians should then govern: by faith in the wisdom that comes from above. Any other way leads only to the vanity of leaders and nations producing the bitter fruits of divisions and wars.

It would be fitting for us all to take time to treasure the birth of Love Incarnate within us to renew His government of our hearts just as Jesus’ mother Mary did who “treasured up all these things, giving careful thought to them, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Mike Anderson lives in Grass Valley.


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