To the Word

Reflections on the call to live by the Word of God

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Location: Mud Creek, Tennessee, United States

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Christians and Government

As the Presidential election heads into its tiresomely long home stretch, I’m reminded of the different attitudes Christians through the centuries have taken toward civil government.

Beginning in the late Roman empire, the church came to be in a cozy relationship with the state. In this kind of arrangement, the church became nearly (if not completely) an extension of the government--a kind of chaplain to society. It’s hard to imagine a situation more contrary to the Gospel message in which Christ calls us to be citizens of a Kingdom not of this world.

When the United States were new, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion offered an opportunity for the church to worship free from state interference. While this was clearly a blessing in one sense, it was also the start of today’s efforts to make our culture free from religion.

Before World War I many members of the Church of Christ did not take part in civil government. David Lipscomb, the great church writer and editor of the nineteenth century, argued that human government was only necessary because humans had rebelled against God’s rule. Christians, he said, should not even vote in civic elections. True, Rom. 13 says God ordained human government, but Lipscomb pointed out that God also ordained hell--but doesn’t want any Christians to go there!

Few of us today take such a radical approach that we don’t even vote (at least on doctrinal grounds). Sadly, some Christians seem to have gone to the other extreme. Our culture increasingly calls us to ignore our religious values when we step into the voting booth. Christians must not do this. If our faith does not influence our voting, it hasn’t sunk very deeply into our hearts.

Voting our convictions may not be easy. I’ve yet to find a major party candidate who could truly be called a completely “Christian” candidate (let alone a “Christian” party). Yet if we are to truly be light and salt to a dark, rotten world, we should look beyond our own pocketbook and prejudices. Let’s endeavor prayerfully to bring God glory even behind the closed curtain of the voting booth.

Copyright 2004, New York Avenue Church of Christ


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