Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government and Church

My Socratic "The government can't hurt me" is conflicting with my Socratic interest in virtuous government.

My Pauline "The government can't hurt me" is raising my Pauline concern that the Church be orderly enough that when governments seem chaotic we are a place where the orderliness of God provides comfort and rest.

I am usually quite ready to argue that the government has relatively little power in the big scheme of things, or even the medium one. I am quite ready to say that the governments of the world are really quite small players in the world. Yes, they can stop food flow, and deny basic human rights, which are very bad, but in even a medium scheme of things, these are small affairs. I care about them, because I care about how we should live, and these interfere with feeding the poor, caring for the oppressed, etc., and in that sense governments are important and it is appropriate to be concerned with how they act. However, the government cannot stop the spread of the word of God. Nor can they stop the people of God from being the people of God. In this way, what the government does is tiny compared to what the Church, under the headship of Christ, does.

No one can hurt a Christian. By this I do not mean that we are invincible, nor oblivious to hunger or pain. I mean that those are not harms relevant to a Christian's decisions. They are not deterrents. Death is not something for Christians to fear, nor hunger, nor strife if it is required of God. The Church is where we exist as God's people, remembering how Christ makes us untouchable by the world. We recall how he took the evils of this world on himself. Christ has made us virtuous and thus we need not fear whatever comes--what bad we once deserved, he has already taken. In the Church, Christ is made visible. His love, his righteousness, and, especially relevant when considering unstable governments, his permanence and orderliness. Thus the Church--and each church--should be a place where we find refuge from the chaos of the world in the calm of Christ who saved us out of the world.

We need not fear the passing away of a mere government, nor need we fear its remaining. What we should be doing, however, is be the people of God who, because his kingdom is here in us, show the permanence of the heavenly kingdom. We need not do anything, for Christ has accomplished it. What we ought to do, we will do, if we are in Christ. What we ought to do we will be unable to do unless we know Christ. It is our dependence on Christ, rather than things of this world, which makes the Church stable. The Church is stable because her foundation is stable. If our churches are a part of the universal Church, then they will also exhibit that stability to the world.

We do not need to fear falling behind, nor struggle to keep up with others, for we have already seen the end of the race. If we show who God is by who we are and what our churches are like, then we will draw those who have learned that the world cannot fulfill their desires. If we try to fulfill their worldly desires, we will find ourselves on another foundation, and thus on an insecure foundation, unstable, and unable to bear us through trials of various kinds. If you draw people to church by anything other than who God is, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified, then you will be on another foundation. If you draw them by appealing to their deepest need, their need for a savior from sin and to know God, then you will be building on Christ, and then you can draw all sorts, in all conditions. If you appeal to the things of this world, you will draw the things of this world into the church, but if you appeal to the things which are above, you will likewise draw the things that are above into the Church.

Only Jesus Christ who died to save sinners and draw them to God appeals to the true state of humanity. It is a timelessly sweet Gospel. If we try to draw people in by any other means, it will be obscured at best, and lost at worst. Do we not believe that it is a beautiful Gospel? Then do not preach anything else: this is the antidote to the fear of man, this is the assurance that God cares for us through all our trials, this is the only power which can sustain us through turmoil. Would you reassure people when the government has shut down? Preach the Gospel. When terrorists strike? The Gospel. In all times, in all places, in all ways, preach the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ who payed the debt to set the captives free and to feed our souls with his life! It is not up to us to get people to come, nor to make them listen. Our job is simply to not hold back in preaching--how can we? Do we not know how precious this is? How can we keep from speaking and writing about it? How do our conversations not derail into it? How is it that we do not realize how great our God is and how amazing his grace towards us? So, learn from him how great he is. Then you will see, and then you will not be able to hold back from speaking about the things of God when you get up and when you sit down and when you go to bed and when you are at your table and when you are going out and coming in and eating and drinking and on and on. His love is intoxicating--his grace is beautiful. We will have it oozing out of our pores when we reach heaven and finally realize how awesome it is that God should love us, and how incredible his means of salvation, and how deep our sin from which he was able and willing to save us. Then we will sing without ceasing because we will not be forced to cease by the troubles of this world. Yet even now, let our lives be songs of praise to him who saved us!

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