We cannot live without law in our society. Thomas Paine wrestled with this idea, concluding that government was a necessary evil. It always moves from a simple means of protecting the property and rights of society, to concluding that it is society. It never moves from the tyrannical and complex to the simple and supportive.
Frédéric Bastiat writes,
The Complete Perversion of the Law
But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.
How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? And what have been the results?
The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy.
So, because of evil and the continuum of good and evil, we are inexorably tied to the law and government to administer it. The problem is in the inability of fallen man to keep that which exists to protect us from plunder, from becoming the plunderer.
The answer is that in Christ we are released from the law. It is unnecessary to tell the spiritual man to not kill, not steal, not sin… When our nature is changed from the carnal to the spiritual, we do not need to be restrained. The problem is, redemption, though released to us in transformation from death to life, is too often rejected in reliance on the law of sin and death. Be struggle to become what we already are in Him. So, we groan in labor, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. The objective of the church should always be to bring spiritual maturity to the human race through the redemption of Christ which lifts us above the continuum of good and evil. The solution is in Him. Christ “inside-mindedness” releases us from the need for self-redemption and reversion to self-righteousness. He is in us and we are in Him. End of story!
The problem we have in arriving at that point is that we so confuse the mission of the church with the necessary role of human government. Remember the moral majority? Good people with right politics, but with an assumption that by taking over government, the role of the church would be fulfilled. Nope! It would just be another form of governmental tyranny, imposing by the rule of law, by a religious majority, not by a spiritual transformation.
Our battle is not with the world, but with bringing the power of redemption into reality and in seeing the effects of redemption freeing people from themselves. Yet, we wear two hats under two kingdoms and it is easy to get confused by the contrasts between them. The mandate of the church is to take the power of the resurrection into the good and evil world and bring it to the new nature provided in Christ. This does leave us with dealing with the evils of governmental tyranny however. It is part of the fall and ensnares humanity under its control. Because of the blindness of humans, we elect a protectorate to serve us and protect our freedom, only to find it serving itself and make slaves of its master. That is the inevitable result of the nature of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Sweet the fruit in the eating, but bitter to the core the end result.
I am tempted to copy/paste Roman 8 here, but we all know it by heart. That is our hope and our deliverance. The measure of leadership is always in its love quotient. Does it love or simply use? Does it free or control? Does is support or come over? Does it become elitist and superior, or is it willing to go to the cross for our good? Does it take a position over us or does is come along side to support us?
A reader noted:
“Sometimes I despair that both our civil government and our religious churches are beyond repair. Is there a point at which we say this is part of God’s plan? Must things become worse and worse until the return of the one true and just King? What, if anything, should Christians do in the face of such dichotomy?”
Maybe repair is impossible but redemption is not. The idea is not to reform the evil to make it good, but to move to a totally different principle (the Tree of Life). The objective of the church should always be different from the role of government. Government, by its very nature exists to protect, and in order to do so, it has to create law and punish those who violate it. Its nature is punitive. Its means is to become the plunderer and confiscate the resources necessary to protect. The problem is, the limits that it is given are never accepted and it always grows beyond its purpose to ensnare and rule. Rather than repairing it, history seems to lead to the conclusion that it has to, occasionally, be watered by the blood of revolution. Sad commentary on fallen mankind, but inevitable, unless we can move from the tree we eat at to the Tree of Life and the redemption it provides. That redemption applies to each individual primarily, but its ramification involves how we release transformation through us corporately. The church is His body, but the church is not an organization but an organism, a living thing, living by a common life – The life of He who died and is now enthroned as Lord of all. Yes, we do structure things in the church, but once again, all too often, we allow the structure we use in interacting with the world to become our view of ‘church.’ It is then that we move from life do dead religion and the law.
What should Christians do? One of the great messages from our past came from Leonard Fox, in his insistence that the coming of Christ was not to get us out of here and take us to heaven to escape a damned world, but His coming was to be for a glorious church which had fulfilled its mission of bringing redemption to the planet. I do not know how to do that nor do I understand the mechanisms yet to come in our accomplishing it, but I believe that the church has to find its ground of authority and start being what it is here for. We are not here to supplant human government but to make it unnecessary. We are not here to create programs and structures and organizations that appeal to the definitions of our culture. The church is not a social or civil or governmental entity. It is the representation of the Lord of Glory, whose objective is to free the world from the tree we ate of and to bring us into the liberty of sonship. Jesus is not going to come and do it. He already came and did it. It is finished. Now it is our privilege to walk in the transformation freely given in Him. We are empowered to be what creation intended and to reflect His lordship into our world. Yet we stand in the wings of the world, watching the continuum of good and evil work its bondage and slavery, and wonder if Jesus will take care of it, or will government take care of it or will….
Listen up Church – The Day of Pentecost has already come and redemption has already been paid for and you wait in vain for the provisions that are already yours. Rise up and speak His name. Rise up and remind the rule of man that its limitation has been exceeded. Proclaim liberty to the captive, whether captivated by sin, by self-limitations or by a government gone mad. Take your place as instrument of His grace and free the world from the fall.
My time is coming to an end, yet this passion burns in my spirit daily as I see how far short we fall from implementing it. While I feel powerless to make it happen, I am assured that God is in control and that there are yet battles in the heavenlies to be waged and dominions that will fall. We shall realize the reward of His sacrifice. God is not lost. We do not need to find Him. We simply need to walk in obedience to His presence and stand in the authority He has already given to us. The serpent has lost its head and we shall grind him to dust on the earth. I firmly believe that.
What shall we do? For one, do not lose hope. It is frustrating to see the contrasts and to feel weak in doing anything about it. But that only reveals our human limitation. We do not trust in the arm of flesh but in the power of His spirit. We do not appeal to the arena of the natural and the continuum of the tree we ate from. We appeal to the Creator who has not lost control and is working on it! The question is not what we should do but what we should be.
All is well. We will succeed, for the power of transformation is past and complete – it is finished. Our task, if we can call it a task is to understand our role, our mission and the power by which we act and speak. It is accomplished already and yet its realization is coming!