Grace is God’s empowering presence at work within a person to justify him and make him what God intended him to be. It was always the plan of the Father to govern men by grace, by His love written in our hearts. And the more a culture, a community, or a nation is governed by grace-full hearts of love, the fewer external laws are necessary. In such a case, all that is needed to maintain the common goals and good of the community is a minimal civil government. It might look like this:
But when grace is abandoned, and the love of God and others runs dry, the civil government by necessity must step up and expand in order to maintain order: Laws replace love, courts replace courtesy, policemen replace parenting, and freedom is lost. This is the sad condition of western civilization..
What’s needed in today’s culture is a return to the simple law of the Kingdom. If we were to once again embrace the love of God and others, much of the government’s burden would be handed back to individuals, and the cry for a nanny state would cease.
Deuteronomy 1:13 instructs us in several additional principles of Civil Government: “Choose some wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.” Notice these three principles:
- The people should choose their leaders. (That’s democracy).
- They should choose leaders from their tribes: (This is local government, leaders who are known.)
- They should choose leaders of wisdom and good character.
What I’m trying to show in these simple posts is that God’s kingdom plan addresses all of life. Kingdom people understand that the gospel is more than forgiveness alone; It is a way of life that includes everything from business to baseball, from homelessness to health care.
On a personal note, I’m back in Maryland after a delightful weekend with the men of Shepherd Gate Church in Chantilly, Virginia. I spoke on “Identity and the Kingdom of God,” and had a rich time of friendship and challenge with these amazing brothers.
6 thoughts on “Missing pieces: grace and government”
Beautiful description Don. If you think about it, this is really the history of our existence. In the garden we had the smallest of “civil” governments; the presence of God. The physical presence of the Living Creator governed creation’s response toward each other and toward God (there was no need to explain the greatest commandment, they lived it daily). Sin created a void between us and the Creator, and God saw fit to establish the Law to be a reminder of His presence (not a bridge, that would take more than the Law, it would take the one who could fulfill it), after all the Law is a picture of the essence of who God is from a ruling and judicial perspective, what was missing was the love and grace that was evident to Adam and Eve that comes with the physical presence of God. Christ re-established that physical presence and re-established for us, the embodiment of grace (the missing piece in the Law). Now the Holy Spirit does the same thing. In the Kingdom (understanding that we are in the “now and not yet” part of the Kingdom) we can get a sense for that small “civil” government when we submit to the grace and love of Christ, and in Him shower that love on the world. Only when we get to the Revelation 21 world God has planned for us will we know it like Adam knew… Great lesson, thanks
Do you guys think that this passage from Moses to the Israelite tribes is related to Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus (appointing overseer’s/elders in the local churches)?
Don- In my own experience I have found that when I am feeling out of sorts w/others in any way ‘unloving’ the only thing I can do is ask Him to cleanse my heart. When I have confessed there my be an instant change, or just a gradusl one. I am glad that he keeps me on such a short leash, but sometimes it means confessing time and again !! Family, friends ,neighbors, sometimes I am just-out of sorts w/all.What is amazing is He is never out of sorts w/me !!When I can love others this same way I am on top of the world !!-Love and smiles,
Thanks for the feedback, guys! Each of you encourages me in your own delightful way. Steve – I think the Deuteronomy principle does (also) apply to the church. Principles of truth transfer from one sphere to the next. But my intention in these posts is to show that God has plans for EVERY sphere, and not just the church.
“We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other..” – John Adams
I came across this quote as I have been curious to learn more about the people and influences that shaped the country of my birth.
Imagine that the role of government was placed on a spectrum with tyranny on one end and anarchy on the other. I am understanding that the United States government was established to be as small as possible at the federal level and avoid the perils of anarchy.
This makes sense to me in the light of the Adams quote above and your post, Don. When the vast majority of people in a nation embrace a common worldview (in this case, a primarily Biblical one) it is possible to have smaller role for civil government. But what about now?
A question I have been considering lately is this:
Is possible for a democracy or republic to effectively govern when there are multiple and opposing worldviews held among the people?
It would be a real shame if people did not serve in civil government because they thought the only thing that made an eternal difference was some notion of “full time ministry” in the context of a local church. I am not diminishing the importance nor the primary role that the local church plays in God’s purpose of discipling nations, but a majority of us who follow Jesus are called to serve His purposes in other spheres of life not involving vocational roles “inside” the walls of the church or ministry – civil government is one such sphere.
Thanks again for creating this space to learn and discuss these things. Your posts, and the comments from those who frequent your blog, are very insightful and continue to challenge me to grow in my understanding of Christ and the kingdom of God. Blessing to you, Don! Wish we didn’t live so far West now. It makes it more difficult than it was before to connect in person. I still hold a hope in the Lord that we will be able to spend some time together someday!
Hey thanks Don. I was thinking that if Christians- as the people of God, not unlike the Israelites in the Deut. passage, are unwilling to apply this revelation to their churches, why would they then be willing to apply them to civil governments? I do see what you are saying, that God’s revelation is good and encompasses all sphere’s of life, I guess I was looking at it as God changes and works through an individual, to his family unit, to their local assembly, and to their community, etc…