Why I’m Politically Apathetic: Part 2
Last time I posted I wrote a long discourse on the governmental process and the role of mankind within it. If I’ve made my point clear enough, you’ll see that I believe we can’t trust the government… well, we can’t trust governments in general. Moreover, the people within these governments are also corrupt. So whether you’ve got a dictatorship or a democracy, you’re going to have issues.
But, I did say there was hope.
I thoroughly believe there is hope.
So, if we’re screwed, how is there hope?
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
This verse sums it up pretty well. People tend to put their trust in worldly systems, but we’re not to put our trust there. Our trust was never meant to be in our resources, but in our God.
… but we don’t do that for some reason.
Many of us are still looking for solutions within the system, or a better system, or a fresh one. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We can’t see that the whole thing is tainted.
Let me explain it this way: A friend invites you to his house for breakfast. You’re standing there chatting with him while he makes omelets, when one of the eggs he cracks into the bowl is rotten. It’s brown, there’s blood and feathers in it, and to top it off it has a strong odor—there’s no mistaking the rottenness of this egg. But he continues and cracks a couple more good eggs into the bowl and begins to stir it. Before you know it, he’s whipped up a hot omelet and it’s sitting on the plate in front of you.
Would you eat it?
Most people wouldn’t… unless they’re spinelessly polite. Why? Because people don’t generally enjoy eating rotten eggs.
But, there’s only one bad egg in the omelet. And after the bad egg was added, a few more good eggs were added.
Even a child understands that one bad egg ruins the whole omelet.
I propose to you that trusting in the systems of this world is no different than eating an omelet with a rotten egg in it. It will not satisfy you, but rather you will reject it.
But, the government does lots of good things too.
True. Governments have the ability to do good things, but we’re still dealing with people here and we’re the rotten egg in the omelet. We spoil the whole thing. And we begin to tweak things to try and get it right. We heat the pan hotter, add spices into the mixing bowl, add more eggs, put the beaten eggs through a sieve to sift out the feathers, add food coloring, decorate the finished product with parsley… we will do anything and everything we can to make the omelet edible. Even if we can’t taste the rotten egg, we’ll still get sick from it. And that’s part of the problem… we’ve already swallowed it.
What we need is a new omelet.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The story of Nicodemus, maybe explained in a way you’ve never heard before…
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, basically a teacher of the Jewish religious law. Pharisees were strict because they feared the wrath of God. Hundreds of years before Alexander the Great or the Romans conquered the nation of Judah, the Babylonian empire conquered them and took a huge portion of the people out of Judah and into exile. 70 years later, the Jews were released and moved home. The 70 years of exile were rough, and almost cost the Jews their identity. They wondered how it all could have happened to them, what went wrong. They discovered as they read their holy books that in their covenant with God, if they obeyed God he would bless them, and if they disobeyed God he would curse them. The curses laid out in the covenant included everything that had happened to them. When they returned back to Jerusalem, they swore before God and to each other that they would follow him diligently so that this would never happen to them again. They made a covenant out of fear, and the Pharisees were the keepers of the flame, so to speak. They made sure everything they did was exactly perfect so that they wouldn’t incur the wrath of God. That in mind, they also knew the messiah was being sent by God and he would free the Jews from their oppressors and restore the kingdom to its glory days.
Back to the text, Jesus shows up doing miracles and everyone’s stoked. Nicodemus recognizes Jesus as the messiah because of these signs. He goes to Jesus by night. People have different reasons for thinking he came at night. Fear of the religious leaders doesn’t make any sense, everyone was stoked about Jesus. Getting away from the crowds, possible. More likely, he was conspiring to overthrow the government. The Pharisees may have been religious tool bags, but they believed God was powerful and that he would rescue them. So Nicodemus came privately in the night to talk to Jesus about the coming revolution. The Pharisees, who were motivated by fear of God’s wrath in the form of foreign government occupation, knew there would be a time when those governments would no longer hold power over them. Finally, someone who would deliver them from the Romans, the prophecies were coming true it seemed.
This is why Jesus’ response to him doesn’t make sense to most people. Why does Jesus reply to Nic’s excitement about Jesus being a teacher from God by saying, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God?” Either Jesus was being somewhat rude and changing the subject into a teaching, or he knew why Nicodemus was really there. The kingdom of God cannot be seen through the lens of this world. Jesus did spark a revolution, but not one that flipped the government systems of the world, rather one that undermined those very systems by working completely independently of them. To see the government Jesus is talking about, you need new eyes to see it… in fact you need to be completely reset, made new. It’s like trying to play a DVD in a VHS player… you can’t see the DVD unless you’ve got a DVD player. You can’t see the kingdom in your present ability to see, you need your eyes opened to see it anew, and only Jesus can do that. Jesus is the way into that kind of sight, and that’s what Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was thinking a government revolution was what he wanted. If only we could get these Romans out of our land, everything would be better. Jesus is saying, no, the problem isn’t the Romans, the problem isn’t the Greeks, or the Babylonians, or the Assyrians, or the Philistines. The problem is the system doesn’t work. The one common denominator between all the governments in the world is people, and until we’re made new, those systems CAN NEVER WORK. So why bother with them?
What do you mean? We need to vote! We have a right, a duty even, to influence government for the better.
Ok. Let’s take a look at an example of people influencing government “for the better.”
Alcoholism was destroying families, as it still does today. People in the church decided they needed to curb alcoholism by making alcohol illegal. Many of us like alcohol, but we can all agree that alcoholism is only possible with alcohol. So, logically if we prohibit alcohol we will curtail alcoholism and provide ourselves with a means of prosecuting it. Alcoholism, could be practically eliminated overnight. It was a great thought, and in the 1920s it was illegal to drink/make/or possess alcohol in the US. What happened? People just went underground with alcohol. Illegal bars were everywhere all over the US, and the more they tried to stop people from drinking the more people drank. Eventually they repealed the law because it was just making things worse.
But it was for the good of the people, right? I mean, alcoholism was going to be eliminated.
Laws don’t change people’s hearts. God changes people’s hearts.
Different example. The Hebrides, a group of islands in northern Scotland had one of the greatest revivals in recent times. Alcoholism was rampant in the Hebrides. Most of the men in the towns were coal miners. Tough men. There was also a group of men and women who were praying for their communities, because they knew how desperately they need God to change hearts. God answered their prayers, and began to work his way through the whole community. Often, Holy Spirit would fall on groups of people all at once and they knew they could never go back to their way of life before. There was a desire for God that didn’t come through preaching, or study of the Bible, or political change, but simply by God’s Spirit opening their eyes. In one night, all the taverns were closed because so many men became more interested in God than drinking, many of the bar owners closed up shop. They would finish work and go home or to the churches to spend time in the presence of God. It was said that the coal miners were so changed that one of the work horses in the coal mine had to be retrained because it couldn’t understand any of their commands… all the commands were curse words.
So, two examples with the same aim. Different methods. Different outcomes.
You can try and legislate the world to order, and people will continue to be people. On the other hand, you can put your trust in God, who alone can open the eyes of people and bring change.
The Prohibition laws of the US had good intentions behind them, but what the religious people of the time didn’t understand is that laws don’t change hearts. You can’t force the VHS tape into a DVD player, that VHS tape needs to be remade into a DVD or it will never work.
When I see people, particularly Christians, trying to legislate morals into people I get upset. So often we think that the laws of the day will bring change and avert God’s judgment, etc. But it’s all based on fear of what could happen. God’s never said we’re supposed to fear anything, save God himself.
We think if we change the laws then we’ll change the culture. We’ve got it backwards. What we need to understand is that when we change the culture, the laws will reflect that culture. Did that make sense? The only way to truly change culture is to change hearts, and that’s something only God can do. Personally, I’m not against alcohol, but to continue the example: Alcoholism will cease when people are freed of its power, not because our governments tell us not to drink it. Governments can’t free you from addiction, but Jesus can.
Our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood—what we’re seeing in our world isn’t everything—the struggle is unseen to those who haven’t been reborn to see the kingdom, but once their eyes are opened to the kingdom the fight’s over. The Romans, the Jews, no one ever had power over Jesus, why? Because he lived in the reality of the kingdom of God that until Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, no one could see or understand.
I said there was hope and I believe there is.
But hope doesn’t come from our governments or our laws, it comes from Jesus and the kingdom he’s establishing. When Jesus changes the hearts of the people, the nations will be changed like never before. But that kind of change never comes through legislation. Never put your hope in governments. Obey the laws, honor and pray for your leaders, pray for your nations and communities, even vote if you feel like it, but know that your government is only as powerful as God allows it to be.
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
Whether you’re worried about what Bush did or Obama didn’t do, know that every ruler’s heart is in God’s and he turns it which ever way he wants to. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh against the Israelites in the book of Exodus, and they still walked out of Egypt. If we really believe these stories are true, then we know our hope isn’t in our governments. Why? Because our governments are made up of people, and God turns those people’s hearts whichever way he wants to. No problem. No sweat. No worries. So, rather than appealing to or hoping in men, let’s put our hope in God who controls all of that anyway and stop worrying about what’s going to happen to us.
If we believe what Jesus says in Matthew 6, we know that God cares for us more than he does the birds, and he will take care of us better than them… and the birds always have what they need.
So be joyful, and hopeful, and don’t be afraid, because God’s in control.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light… You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy… the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian… For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…