By Dr. Mark H. Creech
A newly elected politician was in Washington D.C. for the first time to get acquainted. He was visiting in the home of one of the ranking Senators who was trying to interpret the bizarre wonder of the capital.
As they stood looking out over the Potomic, an old, rotten, deteriorating log floated by on the river. The old-timer said, “This city is like that log out there.” The fledgling politician asked, “How’s that?” The Senator replied, “Well, there are probably over 100,000 grubs, ants, bugs, and critters on that old log as it floats down the river. And I imagine every one of them thinks that he’s steering it.”
We all know the propensity of egocentric steering by politicians. But from where does all authority and dominion flow? Why does God allow anyone to rise to a position of power?
Such questions introduce a concept which is so far removed from the collective memory of Americans that it sounds like an intrusion of religion into the serenity of a nation that has almost completely become secularized. Nevertheless, it is a view that must be revived, if America is going to be true to her pledge of “one nation under God.” Moreover, it is an understanding that must be rekindled if we are to avoid the judgment of He who is Sovereign over all the nations.
The first question is answered by the words of the apostle Paul, saying, “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1). King Solomon, the wisest of Kings to ever rule, arguing as the voice of God, said, “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth” (Prov. 8:15-16).
John Knox, the great reformer of Scotland, summarized the principle in this fashion:
“[I]t is evident, that it is neither birth, influence of the stars, election of people, force of arms, nor finally, whatsoever can be comprehended under the power of nature, that maketh the distinction betwixt the superior power and the inferior, or that doth establish the royal throne of Kings; but it is the only and perfect ordinance of God, who willeth his power, terror, and Majesty in a part, to shine in the thrones of Kings and in the face of judges.”
This is why no person elected or appointed to office should ever have reason to boast or steer his constituency egocentrically. No reason to take pride in one’s abilities. No reason to think of oneself superior to those under authority. Why? Because it is God alone, who by His Sovereign movements through history, raises up whom he will, to see and examine how the one appointed will carry out the duties of his/her office.
The apostle Paul also addresses the second question by declaring for what purpose God commits power to men: “[H]e is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:4).
In other words, God has committed power to legislators, judges, commissioners, councilmen, governors, the president, etc., for one primary objective – to serve the public good and to put down evil.
This is why God established government. In fact, man’s nature is so sinful and corrupt, if there were no appointed powers to punish vice and maintain virtue, we would probably be better off dwelling among the animals. It is sad, nevertheless true, that the beasts of the field are typically more merciful toward each other than humans are with their own kind.
So certain persons are appointed by God to execute justice – to protect the God-given rights of all – to administer authority in such a way that society may please God.
How, then, can any public official achieve such a high and noble function with little or no knowledge of God’s revealed will in His Holy Word? It is impossible!!!
When Joshua was inaugurated as Israel’s leader, God gave to him the rule by which all political leaders should order their service: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:8).
Oh that our leaders would carefully consider what is really required of them. In the final analysis, they will not be judged by opinion polls. The measure of their success will not be determined by what history says, but by what God says – whether they obeyed His commandments and humbly led their people to do likewise.
What is more, the hope of the nation depends on whether its leaders will direct their constituents in this manner. The Scriptures say, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2). Who are the righteous authorities, except those who will lead with a strong Christian worldview?
America’s founders agreed with this approach to government. George Washington said, “True religion offers to government its surest support.” John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, argued, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”
Indeed, during this campaign season, let us be reminded that our state and nation is desperately in need of godly leadership.
We would also do well to remember, however, that we cannot blame all the nation’s woes on insufficient leadership. In a representative democracy, leaders are simply a reflection of the public. There is great need for pastors, churches, and Christians in general, to ask God to forgive us for failing to set the moral compass for a nation with a political system like our own. All too often, we have been disengaged from our duties as Citizen Christians. We have failed to zealously challenge our leaders and the culture with the law of God and the terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Allow me to conclude with one more quote from the great John Knox. He exhorted that if calamities should befall a nation so that the wicked rule, then “let us accuse and condemn ourselves as the only cause of our own miseries. For if we had heard the voice of the Lord our God, and given upright obedience unto the same, God should have blessed us, He should have multiplied our peace, and should have rewarded our obedience before the eyes of the world.”
What our leaders, our nation, need to do is humbly and with repentant hearts look to God. We must turn to him, giving him the helm. What we need is to put away all egocentric steering.