Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.


How we appreciate the positive outcome desired by those seeking to eliminate injustice through political action. Good intention; wrong tool. We are convinced that energies are misspent in attacking the sparks instead of the fire.

The way to transform the world is to transform men. What is needed is the restoration of the image of God in them. This can never be achieved through force; political action is the wrong mechanism. Unrenewed, fallen people cannot force other fallen people to become moral; a corrupt tree can only produce corrupt fruit. Indeed, the command of Scripture is to cut down the tree which is the source of bad fruit.

The full allegiance of the Christian is to Christ and the government of God. He recognizes the Creator as rightful Lord over His creation. Adam and Eve were given dominion–self-government–directly under God’s government (Genesis 1:26). But mankind fell, and the earth was divided between those who refused His lordship and those who returned. Two systems of government were now in play. To bring the universe to a clear understanding of the end results of liberty versus coercion, the two systems must be permitted to play out. Each must manifest its fruits.

Men would not be forced to do good. A space would be allowed for the demonstration of Satan’s principles of coercion, and for God’s principles of liberty. As such, the believer does not in civic matters exercise lordship over any other person. His citizenship is above; he is called an ambassador for God’s government. Ambassadors do not vote in the civic matters of the country of their embassage. In a state like America, a majority of citizens exercises lordship over a minority; a majority vote determines elections. But we are not to exercise lordship over other persons made in God’s image. Jesus Himself is Lord. People are granted freedom to chose evil or righteousness. Men are to reap what they sow–something confused when coercion is applied.

What about an election process in situations other than those involving the state? That is, where participation and membership is voluntary? In such a setting, we know of no reason why persons cannot organize themselves into groups that use a voting process to make decisions. When participation is voluntary and people are free to stand aside or to exit an organization, it cannot be said that they are under involuntary coercion. It is when there is no recourse and they are forced to accept the decision of the majority, that their will is forced.

In a voluntary situation, the person always has an exit. He may exercise his will to follow his conscience. When that option is non-existent he is not free; he is being coerced. A member of a church or other religious organization is such voluntarily. A member of a club or voluntary organization, if he feels that he cannot accept a majority decision that that group has taken, may leave it. But the state imposes its will blindly upon all born or existing within its borders. There is no recourse. The state controls the land area; it controls the borders; it has final authority. Obedience to its decrees is not considered by it to be voluntary.

Thus, we see the fundamental difference. Permitting others to exercise a lordship over us that is voluntarily acquiesced to on our part, means also that if it is exercised over us at any time in a way with which we do not agree, we may abandon it. Or, even if we do agree, but simply wish to withdraw from the group, this too remains our prerogative. We retain conscientious moral judgment over all such relationships. There is the key. In a voluntary situation, we may exercise our conscience to reject the wrong; that is, we have liberty to follow God. In an involuntary situation the state refuses our right to sovereignty of conscience; it endeavors to force us to recognize its “moral” vision before our own. But this no man can do; he must never be bought for a temporal price. He has already been bought by the price of the sacrifice of Christ. 

The governments of earth–all of them–stand in opposition to God’s government. If the Christian votes in matters of civil government, he is advocating that the state coerce; he is acting in favor of goodness by force. This is not his work. He is undergoing renewal of mind, he is learning self-government, to think and act for himself as an agent in cooperation with the government of God. He is friendly but no friend of the world, storing up his deepest interests in the things of the kingdom. He is just a stranger here. Heaven is his home. But while he is here, he represents a kingdom of righteousness. Thus, it is imperative that he in no way coerce. He cannot vote where the outcome is enforced by the power of the state. Just as Jesus never forced His Lordship onto others, neither may he force his.


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