Posts tagged ‘Government’

Midterms 2018

I read somewhere that there’s an election tomorrow.

Actually, unless you haven’t turned on any TV, scrolled through any social media feed, or driven anywhere and seen any billboards or yard signs for the past few months, it’s difficult not to know that there’s an election tomorrow.

For a midterm election, the rhetoric has been unusually hot.  The stakes feel unusually high.  And, if early voting reports are any indication from across my home state of Texas, people are turning out in record numbers because they are unusually engaged.

Sadly, though much of the voter turnout is surely driven by a sense of civic privilege and responsibility, at least some of it is driven by fear and anger.  The thought of having the “other party” or the “other candidate” in power – whichever or whoever the “other party” or the “other candidate” is for you – terrifies and enrages some folks.  Civic privilege and responsibility take a backseat to despising and disparaging one’s political enemies.

George Washington, in his farewell address of 1796, warned:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.

Sound familiar?

Do we live in a political climate marked by “the alternate domination of one faction over another”?  Do we ever engage with and exhibit a “spirt of revenge”?  George Washington calls this kind of political fist fighting “a frightful despotism.”  Why?   Because rather than honestly and thoughtfully debating the ideas and principles necessary to maintain any robust republic, we begin to bludgeon and berate other people we see only as evil enemies.  We trade our humanity and humility for indignation and domination.

Early each Saturday, I go for a 5 am stroll, cup of coffee in hand, around my neighborhood.  This hour of the morning may seem crazy, especially since it is the weekend, but it can’t be that crazy – or, at least, that’s what I tell myself – because I’m not the only one out walking.  Each Saturday, my neighbors a couple doors down are also out, walking their dog.  We wish each other a good morning and, occasionally, we catch up on neighborhood news.

I noticed the other day that in my neighbors’ yard is a sign for the Senate candidate from Texas for whom I did not vote.  I have some deeply held principled differences with this candidate and I gladly voted for his opponent.  And yet somehow, despite our differing candidate preferences, my neighbors and I still manage to like each other and care for each other and talk to each other.  Why?  Because the same principles that lead me to vote in certain ways also remind me that it is “self-evident that all men are created equal” and are therefore worthy of my respect and care even if I disagree with their political positions.

I’m not averse to good political humor and satire.  Sometimes, it’s the only way to stay sane in what can often feel like a political circus.  I am also all for folks arguing forcibly and persuasively for positions, principles, and even particular politicians as they see fit.  And I think it is honorable to go out and vote.  And tomorrow, we’ll have the opportunity to do just that.  But remember, through every joke that is made, debate that is had, and vote that is cast, we are still called to love our neighbors.

I read that somewhere too.

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November 5, 2018 at 6:15 am Leave a comment

A Tenuous Time

Church Steeple

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  As Christianity faded from prominence in the West, a secularized culture was supposed to emerge to take its place that was more tolerant, more enlightened, more harmonious, and less politically polarized than any other society in the history of the world.  But as Peter Beinart explains in an excellent article for The Atlantic, what has emerged as Christianity’s western influence has waned is nothing of the sort:

As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.[1]

Beinart goes on to explain how the traditional battle lines between conservatives and liberals have shifted in the wake of this irreligious surge.  Specifically, with regard to the spiritually skeptical alt-right, Beinart notes:

They tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation…

The alt-right is ultra-conservatism for a more secular age. Its leaders like Christendom, an old-fashioned word for the West. But they’re suspicious of Christianity itself, because it crosses boundaries of blood and soil. As a college student, the alt-right leader Richard Spencer was deeply influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously hated Christianity. Radix, the journal Spencer founded, publishes articles with titles like “Why I Am a Pagan.” One essay notes that “critics of Christianity on the Alternative Right usually blame it for its universalism.”

It turns out that as faith allegiances have crumbled, a universal concern for others in the spirit of the Good Samaritan has too.  Christianity’s cross-ethnic, cross-cultural, and international appeal has proven too much for the self-interested – or, perhaps more accurately, self-obsessed – spirit of our age.

As Christians, we must think through this irreligious political surge and provide a faithful witness in the midst of it.  We also must be prepared to live in a very tricky tension because of this surge.  As Rod Dreher explains in his newly released book, The Benedict Option:

Faithful Christians may have to choose between being a good American and being a good Christian.  In a nation where “God and country” are so entwined, the idea that one’s citizenship might be at radical odds with one’s faith is a new one.[2]

Dreher’s analysis of the tension between being a citizen of a nation and being a child of God is true, but it is also somewhat amnesic.  He is right that there is indeed an increasing tension.  But he is wrong that this tension is anything new.  Tensions between God and government have been longstanding, even in our society.  And these tensions should not surprise us.  It was a Roman governmental official, after all, who approved the request for Jesus’ crucifixion.  Government has, for a great portion of history, had a problem with God, especially when people put Him before it.

The New Testament understands that this tension between God and government will never be fully resolved, at least on this side of the Last Day.  While we may give to Caesar what is his, God also demands what is His, and when what Caesar wants contradicts what God wants, conflict ensues.  Just ask Daniel, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or the apostles.  Our calling, as Christians, is to resist the urge to comfortably resolve this tension, whether that be by condemning this world and cloistering ourselves off from it or by compromising our faith for the lucrative perks of political power.  Our calling is to live in this tension both faithfully and evangelically – holding fast to what we confess while lovingly sharing with others what we believe.

Beinart concludes his article:

For years, political commentators dreamed that the culture war over religious morality that began in the 1960s and ’70s would fade. It has. And the more secular, more ferociously national and racial culture war that has followed is worse.

Yes, indeed, it is worse – which is why we, as the Church, need to offer something better.  We need to offer something loving.  We need to over something hopeful.  We need to offer something reconciling.  We need to offer something that continually and conscientiously questions our nation’s nearsighted political orthodoxies for the sake of a time-tested theological orthodoxy.  We need to offer Jesus, unabashedly and unashamedly.  This is our mission.  I pray we are up to it.

______________________________________

[1] Peter Beinart, “Breaking Faith,” The Atlantic (April 2017).

[2] Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option (New York:  Sentinel, 2017), 89.

April 3, 2017 at 5:15 am 1 comment

God and Country in Order

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 9.44.48 PM

In his book, Destroyer of the gods, Larry Hurtado writes about why the Christian claim that there is only one God was especially offensive to those in the ancient Roman world.  His analysis is worth quoting at length:

In the eyes of ancient pagans, the Jews’ refusal to worship any deity but their own, though often deemed bizarre and objectionable, was basically regarded as one, rather distinctive, example of national peculiarities… 

The early Christian circles such as those addressed by Paul…could not claim any traditional ethnic privilege to justify their refusal to worship the gods.  For, prior to their Christian conversion, these individuals, no doubt, had taken part in the worship of the traditional gods, likely as readily as other pagans of the time among their families, friends, and wider circles of their acquaintances…

Of course, a pagan might choose to convert fully to Judaism as a proselyte, which meant becoming a Jew and ceasing to be a member of his or her own ancestral people.  By such a drastic act, proselytes effectively changed their ethnic status and so could thereafter try to justify a refusal to participate in worshipping the pagan gods as expressive of their new ethnic membership and religious identity.  But this was not the move that Paul’s pagan converts made… 

Indeed, Paul was at pains to emphasize that his pagan converts must not become Jewish proselytes.  For Paul saw his mission to “Gentiles” as bringing to fulfillment biblical prophecies that the nations of the world would forsake idols and, as Gentiles, would renounce their idolatry and embrace the one true God.  That is, unlike Jewish proselytes, Paul’s pagan converts did not change their ethnic identity.[1]

Categories of ethnicity and faith were not clearly delineated in the ancient world.  Instead, they were broadly interchangeable.  To be a part of the Jewish nation was to adhere to the Jewish faith.  To be a Roman Gentile was to be a worshiper of the Roman gods.  There was no concept of religious freedom like we know it today – where a person can worship and live out their convictions freely quite apart from their nationality.  Thus, part of what made Christianity so offensive to the ancient pagans was that it began to decouple a presumed synonymy between ethnicity and faith.  A person’s ethnicity, in the Christian conception, no longer informed ipso facto a person’s faith.  A person could be a Roman Gentile and a Christian monotheist.

Not only did Christianity decouple ethnicity from faith, it actually claimed that a person’s ethnicity was subservient to faith!  Again, to quote Hurtado:

Paul writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)…Whether you were Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, this was now to be secondary to your status “in Christ”…Irrespective of their particular ethnic, social, or biological categories, therefore, all believers were now to take on a new and supervening identity in Christ.[2]

According to Paul, Christ comes before clan.

Like the ancient Romans, we too have a tendency to couple our ethnicity with our faith, or, to put it in another, more recognizable, way, to couple our country with our God.  When this happens, however, it is almost always our God who winds up serving our country.  When it appears particularly expedient or reassuring in the midst of a dangerous and changing world, we can be all too willing to sacrifice fidelity to our faith for the prosperity of our nation.  Hurtado offers us an important reminder:  though we may retain our ethnicities and citizenships and still be Christians, ethnicities and citizenships are subservient to faith.  Faith cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the State.  Furthermore, as we are learning our increasingly secularized society, faith is often at odds with the goals of the State.  Everything from the legal enshrinement of the sexual revolution to the often raucous and raunchy rhetoric of our most recent presidential campaign demonstrates this.  So let’s makes sure we keep the State and our faith straight.  Faith comes first.  After all, the God of our faith will continue to stand, long after the State has fallen.

_______________________

[1] Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the gods (Waco:  Baylor University Press, 2016), 53, 55.

[2] Ibid., 55-56.

March 20, 2017 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

An Executive Order and an Immigration Debate

trump-executive-order

When President Trump issued an executive order two Saturdays ago putting a 90-day moratorium on all foreigners entering the United States from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugee admissions, the reaction was swift and splenetic.  Protests erupted at airports across the country.  Democratic politicians decried – and, quite literally, cried at – Mr. Trump’s executive order.  And now, a federal judge in Washington has temporarily blocked enforcement of the president’s immigration stay.

Though much could be saidand has been said – from a policy standpoint about the president’s executive order and the heated debates that have ensued, it is worth it for us, as Christians, to use this moment as an opportunity step back and consider how Scripture frames the broader issues involved.  After all, long after the embers of the fight over this particular executive order have cooled, the contentious disagreements that have bubbled to the top in this debate will remain.  So here are a few things to keep in mind.

Safety and Sojourners

One of the roles of any government is to protect its people by punishing wrong and standing up for what is right.  This is part of the reason Joshua led a conquest through the land of Canaan.  This is also why the apostle Paul writes:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  (Romans 3:4)

The preamble to our Constitution echoes this sentiment when it explains the very need for such a document thusly:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Likewise, President Trump, when his executive order was met with fiery backlash, defended it by saying that his order was about “terror and keeping our country safe.”

Safety is indeed a noble goal.  But Scripture also has much to say about welcoming and helping sojourners.  God commands the Israelites:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

One of Jesus’ most famous stories – the Parable of the Good Samaritan – has as its centerpiece a call to be kind to foreigners.  In this day, for a Jew to talk about a “good Samaritan” would have sounded oxymoronic.  The Samaritans, after all, were the ones who broke into the Jewish temple during Passover and desecrated it by scattering human bones through it.  Jews did not consider Samaritans “safe.” But in Jesus’ story, a Samaritan ends up saving the life of a Jew.

As Christians, then, we are called to be concerned both with the safety and security of our families and nation as well as with the plights of others, such as Syrian refugees, doing whatever we can to welcome and care for those who need our help.  A concern for safety and a love for sojourners are to go hand in hand.

Local and Global

Donald Trump’s short tenure as president has been marked by the theme of putting America first.  In what was perhaps the most memorable line of his inauguration address, the president declared, “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”

Addressing concerns and challenges close to home is important.  Charity, the old saw says, begins at home.  Scripture echoes this theme when the apostle Paul encourages believers to take care of those closest to them: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).  In this same letter, Paul also wonders out loud how a pastor who “does not know how to manage his own family…can…take care of God’s church” (1 Timothy 3:5).  At issue here is a principle of subsidiarity, which encourages a focus on local affairs first.

But once again, as important as local affairs are, they are not the only concerns we should have.  President Trump’s call of “America first” must never become that of “America only.”

Rodney Stark, in his seminal work The Triumph of Christianity, notes that Christianity is unique not only because it is:

…the largest religion in the world, [but because] it also is the least regionalized.  There are only trivial numbers of Muslims in the Western Hemisphere and in Eastern Asia, but there is no region without significant numbers of Christians – even in the Arab region of North Africa.[1]

Christianity is decentralized because the faith’s founder gave His disciples a global mission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).  In the book of Acts, Christ encourages the Church to have both a local and a global vision for mission: “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

As Christians, then, though we are to tend to the affairs of our families, communities, and country, these cannot be our sole concerns.  A world that is hurting is a world that needs our compassion, interest, and engagement.  We are called to have eyes for both that which is local and for things which are global.

Government and Church

As Christians, we must remember that the affairs of the government are not always coterminous with the mission of the Church.  Governments have a specific role to play.  They are God’s servants, on a civic level, to promote and defend that which is right and to dissuade and punish that which is wrong.  Likewise, the Church has a specific mission to carry out – to reach the world, in both word and deed, with the gospel on a personal level.  Thus, while a government may seek to protect a nation, the Church continues to go forth to reach the nations.

As Christians, then, we live in two worlds.  We are both members of Christ’s body, the Church, and citizens of an earthly nation.  In such a politically-heated environment, however, it can be tempting to exalt the partisanship of politics over the community of the congregation.  Indeed, one of the saddest aspects of our current crisis is that the millions of Syrian refugees who have been displaced from their homes and families have become, in the words of Pete Spiliakos:

…footballs in our partisan scrimmages. We insist on certain standards of hospitality to refugees, making those standards a test of “who we are,” opportunistically – when it is useful to our side.

In other words, we do not charitably welcome refugees while carefully stewarding our own national interests because it is right thing to do, we pick either the reasonable concerns of our nation or the sad plight of international refugees and turn one into a cause célèbre at the expense of the other because it is politically expedient.  This is wrong both civically and ecclesiologically because it reduces people to pawns in a game of thrones.  We are less concerned with doing justice and more concerned with wielding power.

In a debate that has become increasingly either/or, we, as Christians, have a message that is both/and.  We can both seek the safety of our nation and be hospitable to sojourners.  We can both address our local contexts and keep an eye on global crises.  We can both live as responsible citizens and work as members of Christ’s body.  One thing does not need to trump the other thing because, ultimately, over everything is Christ.  He is the One who ultimately both keeps us safe and welcomes us into His kingdom as sojourners from this corrupt age.  He is the One who both loves each of us locally and dies for the world globally.  He is the One who both rules all rulers and is the head of His body, the Church.  He is the One in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

As we seek to process today’s troubles, then, let us never forget who we are.  We are not merely useful political plodders.  We are the children of God in Christ, which means that we trust in Him, live with Him, and love like Him – both those who are near and those who are halfway across the world.

___________________________

[1] Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2011), 392.

February 6, 2017 at 5:15 am 3 comments

Venezuelan Victims

Venezuela Slum.jpg

As our national attention is riveted on a myriad of local stories, most of which are political in nature, the people of Venezuela are languishing.  In what is perhaps one of the most underreported stories of this year, Venezuelans are on the brink of staging an all out revolt.  Tensions are so high in this volatile South American nation that even the future of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is uncertain.

A confluence of calamities has brought the country to the brink of collapse. Plummeting crude oil prices have pilfered Venezuela’s economy and a severe drought has strained the nation’s hydroelectric power supply, forcing the government to enact rolling blackouts and enforce a two-day work week just to save power.  Along with these troubles, food is becoming scarce and medical care is becoming even poorer than it already was.  A headline from The New York Times says it all: “Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals.”

Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis is something that deserves and demands our attention and thoughtfulness.  There are lessons to be learned here.

We can learn that corruption – no matter how powerful it may seem for a season – cannot stand.  Like Hugo Chavez before him, Mr. Maduro is a corrupt head of a corrupt government.  By one count, government officials there have stolen some $350 billion public tax dollars, using them to line their personal pockets.  Outside economic factors certainly play a roll in Venezuela’s high poverty rate, but the government isn’t helping matters.  Venezuela’s politicians are stealing from their own people, taxing them into poverty while they live in luxury.  And the people have had enough.  And they are revolting.

The apostle Paul reminds us that the government is “that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).  And this is certainly true.  God establishes governing authorities and we are to respect and pray for them.  But, to borrow a phrase from Job, “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away” (Job 1:21).  If history is any indication, the Lord has no problem wresting power from governments that would misuse and abuse their authority against their own people.  And the Venezuelan government’s turn for downfall – with Mr. Maduro at its head – may be coming soon.

It is also important to point out that human crises, no matter how foreign or far away they may seem from our perspective, cry out for our compassion and attention. Scenes of cold incubators and critically wounded people in squalid conditions betray not only the incompetence and corruption of a government that demands our repudiation, but the pain and fear of a people who deserve our compassion.  Stories of people’s pain – even if they’re a hemisphere away – demand our engagement.

All this is to say that Venezuela needs a change.  What is happening there now cannot continue.  Americans, understandably, have not been all too friendly with the Venezuelan government.  And this is wise.  Cozying up to corruption, after all, only breeds and makes one complicit in further corruption.  Furthermore, sending relief to the Venezuelan people is complicated.  What we send often ends up in the wrong hands.  But even with these complicating factors, the Venezuelan people are hurting.  And as such, they deserve our notice – and our prayers.

May they find the relief, the resources, and the freedom they seek.

May 23, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Practicing Patience

Patience 1The other day, I drove down to the Social Security office to apply to get a Social Security card for my daughter, Hope.  Because she is adopted, she did not get one issued to her at the hospital.  While I was on my way to visit my local friendly government agency, the skies opened up, thunder clapped, and rain poured down, slowing traffic to a crawl.

Now, usually, I hate being stuck in traffic.  I’m always looking for a way to weave in and out of traffic and find that elusive lane that is going 40 miles per hour faster than all the other lanes.  But not so on this day.  It was raining so hard that, quite frankly, I was glad traffic was moving at a snail’s pace.  I’d rather slosh down the road slowly and arrive safely at my destination than try to gun it and wind up in a wreck.

As I sat there contentedly in a sea of brake lights, my thoughts were drawn to the virtue of patience.  After all, for once in my life, I actually felt patient.  Here is what I realized in my moments spent reflecting: the virtue of patience leads to other virtues.  It is what I call a “funnel virtue.”  That is, if you practice patience, it will funnel you in to other important virtues.

For instance, take the virtue of responsibility.  At the end of the day, my wife directs Hope to clean up her toys.  But directing a one-year-old to clean up toys is never an easy – or a quick – task.  Hope will drop a toy in her toy basket only to immediately pull it out again.  But Melody knows it’s important to teach Hope responsibility.  But to teach the virtue responsibility, Melody first needs to exercise the virtue of patience (which she does marvelously, by the way).  Patience funnels into responsibility.

Or how about the virtue of joy?  The disease of road rage is well documented.  Drivers lose their minds because they feel the person in front of them is going too slow.  But what would happen if they were patient?  Perhaps they would rediscover the joy of a Sunday drive – motoring down the road more to take in the sights rater than to reach a destination.  Patience could funnel into joy.

Then, of course, there is the virtue of love.  There is perhaps no better expression of love than patience.  This is why the very first virtue that Paul uses to describe love in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is, “Love is patient.”  To be patient with someone teaches you to love someone because it forces you to put someone else’s pace and schedule above of and in front of your own.

Finally, patience also can serve as a funnel to fuller faith.  Right now, we are in the process of buying a new home.  I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed to God for an answer about something pertaining to this process…right now!  God is answering my requests in some pretty miraculous ways, just not according to my schedule.  And I am having to remember and re-learn that God really does have this all under control and I can trust Him to work things out.  But here’s the key:  the longer I have to wait on Him, the more I learn to trust Him.  Patience funnels into faith.

As it turns out, when I got to the Social Security office, I was not able to get a card for Hope.  The documentation requirements that I read in the Social Security brochure did not match the documentation requirements they had at the Social Security office.  I left empty handed with an errand list of other government agencies I had to visit to get the required documents.  I had wasted my time.  And I found I was not nearly as patient on the way back from the Social Security office as I was on the way to the Social Security office.

Perhaps my patience funnel still has room to expand.

June 30, 2014 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Two Kingdoms, One Ruler

This weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off a series called, “King Me! Life Lessons from Israel’s Lieges.”  In this series, we are taking a look at some of Israel’s kings and seeking to learn from both the good and the bad of their rules and reigns.  The theme verse for this series comes from Judges 8, where, after leading a valiant charge against the Midianites, the Israelites want to install their judge, Gideon, along with his family, into an Israelite royal dynasty.  Gideon responds, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you.  The LORD will rule over you” (Judges 8:23).  Gideon understands that, ultimately, it is the LORD who is King over all.  No earthly king can dare or deign to take God’s place.  Indeed, the subtitle for this series, “Life Lessons from Israel’s Lieges,” alludes to this.  A “liege” can be either one who rules or one who is ruled.  Earthly kings are both.  They may rule over others, but they themselves are inescapably and inexorably ruled by God.  For God is King over all.

Like Gideon, Martin Luther understood that God rules and reigns over all.  In his writings, Luther often spoke of two kingdoms.  On the one hand, Luther explains, there is a left hand kingdom, which incorporates the world and its rules and rulers. On the other hand, there is a right hand kingdom, or a spiritual kingdom, which consists of all those who have faith in Christ and are guided by the Gospel.  When teaching on these two kingdoms, I will often refer to the right hand kingdom as the Kingdom of God and the left hand kingdom as the Kingdom of Man.  “Who rules the Kingdom of God?” I will ask when I teach on this topic.  People quickly and confidently respond, “God.”  But then I follow up, “Who rules the Kingdom of Man?” Many respond, “Man.”  But the glory of the Kingdom of Man is that, despite its name, it is not ruled by man, but by God!  The Lutheran Confessions explain:  “It is taught among us that all government in the world and all established rule and laws were instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order.”[1]  This statement echoes the words of the apostle Paul:  “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” (Romans 13:1).  Because God institutes and establishes the rulers in the Kingdom of Man, He is also the ultimate ruler over the Kingdom of Man.  As the prophet Daniel says, “God sets up kings and deposes them” (Daniel 2:21).  There is no kingdom – be it the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Man – where God does not reign and rule.

Though God reigns and rules over both the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man, it should be noted that God rules differently in these two kingdoms.  Luther explains:

One must carefully distinguish between these two governments. Both must be permitted to remain; the one to produce righteousness, the other to bring about external peace and prevent evil deeds. Neither one is sufficient in the world without the other. No one can become righteous in the sight of God by means of the temporal government, without Christ’s spiritual government. Christ’s government does not extend over all men; rather, Christians are always a minority in the midst of non-Christians. Now where temporal government or law alone prevails, there sheer hypocrisy is inevitable, even though the commandments be God’s very own. For without the Holy Spirit in the heart no one becomes truly righteous, no matter how fine the works he does. On the other hand, where the spiritual government alone prevails over land and people, there wickedness is given free rein and the door is open for all manner of rascality, for the world as a whole cannot receive or comprehend it.[2]

Thus, God rules in the Kingdom of God by the redemption of men through the cross of Christ and He rules in the Kingdom of Man by suppressing the wickedness of men through the auspices of earthly rulers.  We thank God for both kingdoms.  And we thank God that He is King over both.  He is King over us.

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[1] AC XVI:1

[2] AE 45:92

February 27, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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