Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Government and Grace

Government is  required to stand for justice (Romans 13:1-4; Proverbs 14:34; Deuteronomy 25:1). But is it required to enforce God's Law in exact detail? The problem with this is, we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and cannot keep the Law in exact detail. Also, the purpose of God's Law is not to tell us the perfect form of government but to put forth God's standard  and how far we fall short of keeping it (Romans 3:19,20; 5:20; Galatians 3:21-25). But even in the enforcement of the Law in the Old Testament, there are indications of the practice of mercy (Matthew 19:8, 2 Samuel 12:13; 14:14). Now we are not told what laws Christians are required to advocate in a current secular government. But some balance of justice and mercy seems to be called for. Part of this involves not too easily convicting people of things they are accused of (Deuteronomy 19:15-20; Proverbs 24:28; 18:17). Now it must be remembered that anything the government requires of its people is in principle a law, whether it is called a law or a rule or a regulation. (While it is appropriate for governments to collect taxes for their operating expenses, Romans 13:6; Matthew 22:15-22, this too can become a way to regulate people.)

Now often in making laws there is an idea that people are basically good and can easily keep them. Or else that people are totally plasticine and can be easily made to conform to whatever is required. Neither of these fit what the Scripture teaches about human beings or how people really behave. Now it is wrong to ignore the requirements of justice and not expect the government to enforce them. This is particularly true regarding the poor and helpless, who look to government to protect them from oppression (Exodus 23:6; Proverbs 14:31; Leviticus 19:10 ). But we also need to avoid being excessively strict or micromanaging in terms of the laws passed. Now there is a place for trying to prevent known dangers (Deuteronomy 22:8; Exodus 21:28-36), but we should avoid becoming excessive in this.

As Christians, I do not think we can ignore what the government does and not work for justice in society (Matthew 14:3,4; 2 Samuel 12:1-10; 1 Kings 21:17-24). But we also need to remember than we ourselves are sinners saved by the grace of God and need to show mercy on others (Romans 5:6-8; Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 19:10). And most of all, we need to realize that what people really need is the Gospel (Romans 3:21-31; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Galatians 3:6-14) and that we cannot solve the problems of the world simply by passing laws. I like Luther's analogy of comparing the civil law to the muzzle on a wild animal. It does not change the animal's nature, but it keeps the animal from biting you. There is a place for muzzles, but we should not expect too much from them.

No comments:

Post a Comment