The Obedient Government - III
Holy Scripture informs the purpose and actions of governing.
Hence, GOVERNMENT IS TO
INSURE EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL: Equal justice means equal fairness for all: races, genders, classes, and abilities. Appropriate and equal laws for all. "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) Justice levels the playing field so that all people are equally accountable, suffer fair consequences, and reap fair rewards. Equal justice means economic equality. Equal justice means equal opportunity. Equal justice means equal educational opportunity. Equal justice opens one to the common life, the common good. No one is excepted from being part of the common life. No one is exempt from the demands of the common good. The standard of equal justice liberates and requires that all people nurture the common life and common good.
LIFT UP THE POOR: There is to be enough for all. (Amos 4-6). "[God has]...lifted up the lowly; [God has] filled the hungry with good things." (Luke 1:52-53) We are to care for the stranger, those from other cultures, those who are outcasts. (Luke 10:25-37) We are to share our bounty according to need. (Acts 2:43) We are called to discipleship, to compassion, to generosity, to show mercy. And in the end we will all be judged according to our response to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, giving water to the thirsty, providing shelter, and visiting those in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46) Debt relief will lessen or relinquish the burden of financial scarcity: "Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts." (Dt. 15:1) We are to remember Cain's question: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9) and answer "Yes." Life is not Darwin redux, survival of the fittest. All humankind are united for mercy.
BE SUBJECT TO JUDGEMENT: The standards by which the character of government is grade are how well the hungry are fed, how well the naked are clothed, who well we welcome the stranger, how well we give water to the thirsty, how well we shelter the homeless, and how well we treat the prisoner. Governments are to see themselves as "disarmed" (Colossians 2:15), accountable and subject to judgement, vulnerable to the needs of the people. No government is free to work its will exercising moral corruption, justified by a cold and merciless ideology, unbound from mercy's embrace. Governments are to remember the Barmen Declaration, which announced that first allegiance is to Christ (or to that which provides standards of justice, love, and mercy). Governments are to also recall Bonhoeffer's concept of the "misleader": that leaders can be corrupted, committing bloody acts and unjust deeds, all the while justifying itself for the sake of order and protection. Remember, the Third Reich lasted only 12 years.
CARE FOR THE EARTH: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...." (Genesis 1:1), "[God said] let them have dominion...." (Genesis 1:28) To have dominion is to have the responsibility to care for creation. Throughout the Creation narrative, we learn that God was pleased with what God had done, saying "And it was good" or "God was very pleased." The Garden of Eden was a time and place of shalom, of harmony, of balance. Romans 8:21 says "...creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay...." John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world...." We are to live towards the future when there will be a "new heaven and a new earth." (Revelation 21:1) Governments are stewards, caretakers of God's earth, creators of a balanced harmony.
PRACTICE LOVE: It is significant that bookending Paul's treatise on government in Romans 13:1-7, are the calls to love: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:9-10) And in Romans 13:8-10, we read: "Owe no one anything except to love one another....Love your neighbor as yourself....love is the fulfilling of the law." Paul is binding governmental actions to the love ethic. Politics is captive to love for all. Political action is to create a love culture for all.
CREATE PEACE: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity." (I Timothy 2:2) In Luke 19:42 we read: ""As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying 'If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!'" In Isaiah 2:4: "....they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war anymore." Once again from Isaiah: "The wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together...." (Isaiah 11:6) Governments are to create a culture of peace, of nonviolence.
NEXT TIME: What does it all mean?