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Thursday, January 30, 2014

God's Man; God's Country; God's Kingdom

Matthew 4:8-10 NLT

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’”

God's wrath: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him....In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (from Romans 12).

In the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln attended a reception where he spoke about the Southerners. He referred to them as human beings who had committed grave errors, rather than his enemies to be completely destroyed.

One woman fiercely committed to the Union cause, chastised President Lincoln for humanizing the foes to the south instead of seeking to destroy them. Lincoln responded to her calmly: "Why, madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"

We can defeat our enemies by the sword and thereby create even more enemies. Or we can love them into submission.

President Lincoln had to do the former sometimes, but he much preferred the latter. And the latter, of course, is the path of Christ.

(From the President's Devotional by Joshua Dubois, January 30th).

There is certainly no exclusivity if we speak of God's man or God's country. We can compile our own lists of God's men and God's countries. For example, I think many see Billy Graham as God's man. I will discuss someone I know better—my own father. Daddy was a Godly man who put worship of God first. He was a follower of Jesus and he believed and exercised the disciplines of love. I say this knowing full well that he would make no claims to perfection. One of his roles was being the father of our family. Now, he would not claim perfection in this role. We can even go far as to say the role of father (any father) is inherently imperfect. Just so, no country, not even one considered God's country should claim perfection for imperfection is inherent in the role of any country.

The Jehovah Witness point out that Satan's temptation of Christ to become an earthly ruler supports the idea that all governments are inherently evil for the powers were Satan's to give away. I suppose you could include a father's role as in part a governmental role—a father has obligations in the governance of his family. If all government is of Satan, it cannot be of God. Therefore all governance of any entity is of the devil.

I suppose anyone looking at Washington right now might be inclined to agree. Certainly perfection and governance seem eternally estranged. It is good to understand this because this forms the foundation of all that's good in government. I do not believe that the US Constitution and Bill of Rights are of the devil, I think they are of God. I think governments are institutions ordained by God. Now this is a neutral statement and does not imply that governments are always good, always just, always righteous, and certainly does not imply that they are to become unlimited objects of worship.

Likewise the role of government is not uniform but this is determined by the institution it serves. For example, the ruling body of a state has a role quite different from the ruling body of a family. It is important not to confuse these roles, for as Bonhoeffer so aptly put it, if one institution tires to usurp the role of another, it will forfeit it own proper role.

Governance always entails power—if not the police power of the state, a semblance of it. This power is essentially what Jesus declined at the temptation. He would not rule by power, but by Spirit. Therefore I warn all those who look forward to an end-time when Jesus will rule by power (some imagine even ruthless bureaucratic and military power) that this is a contradiction to the Spirit of Christ as he consistently revealed it.

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