Friday, August 07, 2009

Asleep at the Wheel

“Whenever and wherever the Gospel has gone out, the faithful have emphasized the priority of good works, especially works of compassion toward the needy. Every great revival in the history of the church, from Paul’s missionary journeys to the Reformation, from the Alexandrian outreach of Athanasius to the Great Awakening in America, has been accompanied by an explosion of priestly service. Hospitals were established. Orphanages were founded. Rescue missions were started. Almshouses were built. Soup kitchens were begun. Charitable societies were incorporated. The hungry were fed, the naked clothed, and the unwanted rescued. Word was wed to deeds.”
(from The Micah Mandate by George Grant; p.118)

I’m hearing a lot of concern these days about government’s increasing role in our lives. “What do you think about our government these days” is a common question I hear wherever I go. I sense a rising resentment and bitterness about government’s increasing control and influence. I sense a concern about “Our American Transformation”.

Government has increased its spread and influence while we, the church, have slept. The government grew to fill the vacuum left by the absence of the church. One example, part of the church’s responsibility is to do good works, acts of kindness, help the poor, the sick, and the needy. Government came in with welfare programs and we, the church, gladly laid down and “gave up” that turf to the government but we reserved the right to continually complain about how they do it. It is not the government’s job; it’s the church’s job. It’s easier to sit, point our finger and complain rather than get our hands dirty and wipe snot off a child’s face. Yes, we might develop a relationship with “those people” but then they’ll be hanging around all the time ruining the carpet in our churches.

The idea of hospitals with centralized health care originated in the church; remember the names of the early hospitals—St. Luke’s, St. John’s, Lutheran Deaconess, and Our Lady of Perpetual Care; Christian organizations all. Christian visionaries forged ahead with passion. It required risk and sacrifice. Suggest the same ideas today that the church should offer medical services and we will be met with a lot of blank stares, like “Why would we ever do that?” Health care went from being a ministry to being a business. The reality of business decisions, not ministry, drive health care today.

The increasing role of government came at the expense of the family and the church. For example, we as fathers are responsible to teach our children our values and spiritual truths. We’ve passed off much of our responsibility to our wives, the school teacher, youth pastor and the confirmation class. To make ourselves feel better yet, we’ve passed off our responsibility to the “Christian school” teacher. That way we can feel somewhat better about shirking our God given responsibility.

Forgive me for my cynical attitude today but we only raise these questions when we sense, as Calvin put it, “our comfortable nest is about to be disturbed”.

Praise God we still live in a country with personal freedoms guaranteed in the constitution. May we exercise our rights, realizing that God instituted government to protect the people from foreign invaders and to bring restraint upon ourselves.

Romans 13:1-7: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

When government’s role expands beyond these general boundaries, we have trouble. Our system is not perfect or close to it but it is one of the best in the world, imperfect as it is. It is not all the government’s fault, some of it is our fault. We the church laid down on the job allowing government to do the jobs we were intended to do. Yes, when our comfortable nest gets ruffled up, we stir.

Oh we’re not at the point of claiming any responsibility. No, we will continue to hide behind our stained glass windows and walls, hoping God will rescue us from our current trials. Wake up people, Christ rescued us at the cross, working out the Father’s perfect plan of redemption so we could minister to a hurting world, sharing the truth of Christ as the only hope. The world is afraid; afraid of death and afraid of the future. Jesus holds both in His hand. Don’t be afraid. Remember God is and will always be on the throne. No plan of His is ever thwarted. (Isaiah 55)

Lord, continue to do your work in spite of our malcontent. Wake us up.

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