Last night on campus we talked about God and government, politics and presidential elections.
This semester at CSF our theme for Bible study is the story of scripture. My hope is that the students will understand the grand, over-arching narrative of the Bible. Back in early September we began with creation and fall. Then we moved on to look at the call of Abraham, God rescuing Israel from Egypt, the giving of the Law and the conquest of the land of Canaan. It just so happens that last night, a mere couple weeks prior to the election, we came to the part of the story where the Israelites, God’s people, ask for a king.
This story is in 1 Samuel 8 if you care to read it. Prior to this the Israelites lived under God as their one and only king. God ruled them through Moses and Joshua, but neither were kings. After Joshua’s death the time of the “judges” began, but the judges were not kings either. Then the people look at the world around them and decide they want to be like other nations and have a king. Big deal, right? What is so wrong with asking for a king? The problem is that in doing so, they reject God as their king.
One reason they give for asking for a king – they want a king to lead them into battle, like the other nations. In the past God had led them into battle. They are rejecting God’s rule over them.
Another major problem with this is that the whole reason Israel existed as God’s people was to be an example to the nations. Israel began in the calling of Abraham, with God promising that through Abraham’s descendants all nations on earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). God did not choose one group of people at the expense of everyone else, instead God chooses a people so that through them blessing and salvation can come to everyone else. This is reaffirmed in Exodus 19 where the people are called to be a kingdom of priests. In other words the entire nation was to perform the duties of priests, representing God to the nations.
So we come again to the story of them asking for a king. Instead of showing the rest of the world what it is like to be in relationship to God, they want to be like the rest of the world and have a king.
As the story continues, Samuel tells them all the bad that kings will do, much of which happens in the reigns of later kings. Of course, God is able to turn bad into good and there are some good kings. Without getting into all of that, we can try to bring the story ahead into our contemporary situation: what does this have to do with us today? We don’t have kings after all.
Either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is going to be president of the USA for the next four years. In the words of Peter Enns, if the thought of one or the other terrifies you, as a Christian, you have a theological problem.
Please hear what I am not saying. I am not saying you should not care. I am not saying Christians should not vote or get involved in politics. I am not saying the two candidates are exactly the same, their policies will be different (not in all things, but in many).
What I am saying is that we as Christians ought to model a confidence in a higher power, greater than Obama and Romney. Perhaps the best way I can say it is that our political involvement should not be motivated by fear. I don’t think fear has a role in the Christian life (at least as it relates to politics).
The prophet Isaiah says the following about the nations:
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust (Isaiah 40:15)
Compared to the power and greatness of God, America and all nations are less then nothing. That is not a knock on America as much as it is a recognition of how great God is.
The question is, when we get involved in politics do we act like everyone else, do we act as if it will be the end of the world (or as one famous person said, 1000 years of darkness) if our candidate loses, or do we act in a way that reflects our confidence in the God who is in control and much more powerful then any candidate?
The Israelites were called to be an example of life in relationship with God, with their loyalty to God as their primary loyalty. We Christians are called to the same thing: our loyalty to Jesus Christ outweighs all other loyalties.
The Israelites failed. Instead of being an example, they wanted to be like others and put their trust for a better world in a king. Do we do this? Do we put our hope for a better world in Romney or Obama? If so, we’re in the same position as Israel.
Whoever you believe is better for the country and however you express your beliefs, do so in such a way that demonstrates confidence in God, not fear of things that are like dust on the scales.