The Christian Vision of Government (IX)

Government that is big enough to give you everything you want is more likely to simply take everything you’ve got. U.S. President Ronald Reagan, 1985.

History shows us a lot of evil men in places of power. From the Pharoah of Exodus, who commanded his people to throw Hebrew baby boys into the Nile (Ex.1:22), through to the Herod of Jesus’ day who also murdered baby boys (Mat.2:16-18), to Genghis Khan, right through to the worst tyrants of the twentieth century: Stalin, Hitler, Mao. And these six are only some of the more spectacular ones; there have been hundreds of political leaders in history who were killers, but circumstances prevented them from getting into the ranks of the most infamous. “Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people” (Prov.28:15).

Why is this? The Christian person must begin with this Biblical truth: original sin has been in the human heart since Adam and Eve rebelled in the Garden. This means that people are born with an inherent propensity to sin and rebellion against God. That’s a piece of pretty grim news, and nothing can change this, other than the grace of God which has been manifested in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that “the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (IJn.3:8a). Only Jesus Christ can truly change the human heart. The Bible encourages us that “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come” (IICor.5:17).

This should point us to something: when the knowledge of God is systematically removed from the hearts of men and women, human affairs will get ugly. As Chesterton wrote, when men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything. The leaders of the French Revolution were mostly self-conscious atheists; is it any accident that their revolution quickly turned into an awful blood-bath?

Evil rulers have a particular religious disposition, but there’s more: they are generally influenced by a culture indifferent or hostile to God. Not only were Stalin, Hitler Darwinian atheists, the national cultures they grew up in had already turned from Christianity, and were impacted by the heresies of nihilism (Russia) and Higher Criticism (Germany). The Church in both countries was weak, doctrinally confused, compromised and ineffective in terms of national influence.

Was that a recipe for disaster? Of course. Could we repeat the experience? We already are. Think of 100,000 babies “legally” aborted every year in Australia, funded by the taxpayer through Medicare. If ever there was a case of “the blood of the innocent,” this is one.

Remarkable, isn’t it? It’s like what happened in Pharoah and Herod’s day, all over again, with one exception: this time, the community acquiesces.

Do we require changes in leadership? Of course. But if there is to be lasting, godly national change, it has to go much deeper than merely national leadership. As Isaiah said of Judah and Jerusalem in his era, “the whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds” (Isa.1:5a-6).

Australia (and the rest of the world) requires much more than change at the top. We have to hope and pray for national spiritual transformation, beginning at the grass roots, working upwards. When Jonah went and preached in Nineveh, this is what took place. “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).

When people are disappointed with their national leaders, they have to do more than merely change the leadership team. People must ask, “Why were these people elected? Do their beliefs go to the heart of the community?” The fact is that evil leaders (especially in democratic countries) are chosen by people LIKE THEM.

So, we have none to blame but ourselves for the state of the nation. Or to put it differently, the state of the nation is a national problem, not limited to a few people presently in power.

Israel’s decline under Saul was preceded by the corruption and failure of the priesthood under Eli. The best cure for poor national leadership in an authoritative and effective Church.

Change will come; it must come ultimately, though there may be some pain before we get there. The promise of the Lord to Israel was, “then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isa.1:26).

But if meaningful change really is to come, it has to begin with us, for “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…” (I Pet.4:17).

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