What Would Grandpa Say?

     [EGW editor's note: Published in the June 2014 issue of Think magazine, used by author’s permission.]

The Christian and Government
by Jim Mettenbrink

     In the popular 1939 film “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” we observe what most of us suspect is the reality in government.  Mr. Smith is selected by the governor to replace the deceased US senator.  Because of his father’s adulation of the other living senator as an honorable man, Mr Smith also had a deep respect for him.  Soon he discovered the corruption in the political process, involving the senator whom he highly respected.  Mr. Smith confronted the corruption and in a pang of conscience, the senator shouted, “I’m a politician, I’m a liar.

     In a late April, 2014 TV interview, the mother of one of the four men who were murdered at Benghazi reviewed that to date she had heard nothing from the US government about his murder.  She boldly proclaimed, “My government lied to me!”  What kind of government is this in the land of the free, where we expect honesty and honor?

     For those of us over age 30, we are conscious of perhaps the greatest and most abhorrent disregard of freedom and national security, and lying by dishonest and dishonorable government.  In Sibel Edmonds’ discovery of espionage and sale of, amongst other things, nuclear secrets, she was persecuted.  She is a Turkish immigrant who began working as a translator for the FBI’s Middle East intelligence section a few weeks after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.  Within weeks she uncovered, espionage by a translator who was connected to organizations in the USA, which involved Pentagon officials, half dozen representatives in the US Congress, high officials in the State department and the President’s administration.  FBI officials threatened her and her family.  The US attorney general invoked the “state secrets privilege,” which is rarely used.  A couple of senators became interested in her case, but soon dropped her like a hot potato.  Most egregious was the conduct of the judges (supposedly the guardians of our freedoms), during the four year period of her discovery and constitutional lawsuits against the government.  After many delays, the appellate court finally heard the case, but barred the media from the court room.  During the testimony of the US attorneys, the judge barred Ms. Edmonds and her attorney from the courtroom, thus not hearing the testimony, they could not respond to the government’s defense.  The case was dismissed.  No justice!
     The last path for justice was to the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.  Espionage covered up by the highest court in the land!  Again no justice!  This did not stop Ms. Edmonds from soliciting two congresses (2006, 2007) for new laws.  Failing to get a single congressman to support new laws, she wrote, “We are a constitutional democracy in name only.
     All of the guilty violated their oath of office to uphold the constitution.  Whether they prostituted their vow because of fear, privilege, or financial gain is unknown.  Yet, we Americans wonder how God could let this happen in “God bless America,” the last bastion and haven of freedom?  Indeed, where is God in the midst of this governmental lying and abuse of power...shutting down freedom, honesty, national security and justice, and besmirching their personal and national honor?

     Oh, uh, before we answer, just one more example of this abhorrence.  Unwittingly, Henry Kissinger revealed this arrogant, above the law attitude of those who hold power.  He said “The illegal we do immediately.  The unconstitutional takes a little longer.” (March 10, 1975, meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Melih Esenbel in Ankara, Turkey).  Worse, on another occasion, he berated, “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”  Is it any wonder that government has such low ratings in polls measuring trustworthiness?  Yet, paradoxically, he is held in high regard.  How we have been deceived!
     Kissinger also said “Blessed are the people whose leaders can look destiny in the eye without flinching but also without attempting to play God.”  Indeed that is the problem, mere sinful and prideful men in government.

     Knowing that most would be downhearted, my sermon on the Sunday after the last presidential election was “Obama is God’s man.”  Here’s the reason.  In Judah’s king Jehoshaphat’s prayer, he acknowledged God’s role in the nations – “
O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You” (2 Chronicles 20:6).  God had selected the pride filled Nebuchadnezzar as the king of Babylon which would take Judah, His chosen special people into exile from their homeland and destroy their nation as well as others (Jeremiah 25:9).  Obviously this explains the changes in nations; borders and even their existence.  God revealed to him “...That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4:17, also vs 25, 32; 5:21; Isaiah 45:1).  God is the king maker and remover (Daniel 2:21).  Although Israel’s first king was a disappointment to God, David recognized that Saul was God’s choice and thus held him high regard, not because of Saul himself, but because of respect for God (1 Samuel 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 23).  Like Judah’s King David in his relationship to King Saul, even though a leader might be evil, Christians must respect the office, knowing that God put him there for His purposes.  Not only does God establish rulers, He also establishes the nations.
     Regarding the existence and borders of of nations, “
He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them” (Job 12:23).  It is not clear when the exact moment God’s patience has ended before He destroys a nation, but it is clear that He controls their very existence – beginning and end.

     When God promised to give the territory of Canaan to Abraham, He said it would be 400 years later.  The reason was because the Canaanites had not descended to the depth of evil to deserve to be destroyed (Genesis 15:13-16).  God indeed formed the new nation of Israel 400 years later (Exodus 19:1-9) and gave them the land of Canaan another 40 years later (Joshua 1-24).  God warned Israel, if they became evil, He would destroy the nation (Deuteronomy 28:45-68).  That destruction began in 722BC with God’s chosen instrument [Assyria, taking the northern 10 tribal territories and exiling 90% of the population throughout their empire (2 Kings 15:27-29; 17:1-23; Amos 5:3)].  Although Judah deserved to be destroyed, God allowed their existence for another 135 years because King Hezekiah prayed to God (2 Kings 17:18; 19:20, 35, 36; 2 Kings 20:5-7).  But destroy them He did!  In 586 BC Babylon destroyed Judah and the Jews went into exile for 70 years (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36:15-21).  Further the prophecies of the destruction of the nations reflects God’s control of their existence (Isaiah 30, 32, 47 ; Jeremiah 46-51; Zephaniah 2:13).  Basically the account of Israel’s formation and destruction reveals that God determines the origin, existence and destruction of nations and their borders.  Some might salve their pride with, “That was in the Old Testament, but not today!”  That is essentially a deist attitude, i.e., God has gone on vacation and lets mankind create its own mess without any controls.  There is no indication in the New Testament that God has given up control of the nations to man’s whims.  Knowing this what should Christians do?

     The apostle Paul wrote “
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).  That might be difficult for some to stomach, but it reflects the attitude of King David.  We must respect government simply because God put them there.  In reality our obedience or disobedience reveals whether we really trust God.  It’s a faith issue – weak or strong!

     About 30 years ago when teaching a Muslim in a Muslim land which prohibits proselytizing for Jesus, another Christian excused himself from the risk of arrest or worse, by saying, we must obey the government citing Romans 13:1-2.  Was I going against God by teaching the gospel to the lost?  When Peter and John were commanded by the Jewish supreme court not to preach the gospel, they responded, “
We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  God’s commands supercede those of men.  Thus Christians must not support abortion or homosexual marriage laws.  In the face of this what shall we do?  Paul exhorts, “...first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

     Grandpa says knowing that government (made up of mere sinful and often lying, dishonorable people) first serves God’s purposes, even though they might rail against God in their own purposes, we must trust God, pray for the national repentance and for righteous leaders – “
Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

      © Jim Mettenbrink; used by permission; courtesy of the Brookings church of Christ; 150904
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