Tuesday, May 7, 2019

EmmDev 2019-05-07 Government


We are on the eve of elections in South Africa. Tomorrow we go draw our crosses and participate in the process of governance in our land.

In the wake of corruption, scandals and leadership failures, there are many who are negative: about voting, about systems of governance and particularly about the diminishing overtly Christian practices in our government.

If anyone had reason to be negative about the governing powers, it was Paul. Rome was a totalitarian state that taxed its people heavily and enforced this with military might. Its leaders were morally, ethically and spiritually corrupt and, ultimately, Rome would persecute the church and Paul would be beheaded by the state.

Paul wrote about government to the church in Rome. This congregation's members would be driven into the catacombs and would face gladiators and lions. His views are so surprising, that I am surprised that some well-meaning copyist didn't leave these verses out! But this is what I love about the Bible: It doesn't just tell us what we want to hear, but also what we need to hear.

As we read the text, we see Paul making a number of points:

  1. God establishes government. Our world is a broken world and so no government is perfect and no leader is perfect, but God causes nations to rise and fall, He raises kings and princes and works out His purposes in the ebb and flow of history. It is important to note that God establishes authority and not individuals. It is never about people, but about governance. God establishes authority for the welfare of society. ("For he is God's servant to do you good") If your authority is not acting for the good of the people, use the system to move them out.
  2. We should not rebel against authority (unless we are being asked to do something contrary to God's will and even then we must still act lovingly). We should do what is right and pay taxes because this creates a stable and functioning society. When we don't, chaos ensues and so authority must also deal with those who do wrong.
  3. We should do right, not because of fear of punishment, but for the sake of conscience. The best governments instill a sense of self-governance in its citizens.
  4. We should also be as respectful as possible. This is tough, especially when our leaders behave badly. We don't have to tolerate bad behaviour, but respect their position
  5. At the end of the day, we need to fulfil our duties (or debt) to society. But even after we have "ticked all the boxes" there is one task that remains and this is to love.

Children draw kisses as little x-crosses. If you are voting tomorrow, let your x be a reminder that, above all else, you are being called to love your fellow human being. Imagine if we all started doing this!

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow human has fulfilled the law.      (Romans13:1-8)

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