Thursday, April 16, 2020

Encouraging Authorities to Submit to Christ in the 5th, 6th, and 8th Commandments

May the cost of the "cure" send us to the Cross
All that has been done in the advance of tyranny and decline of the economy will have an astronomical price tag in lives. Not just lives by which these are means that they ended early, but lives that are destroyed even in the midst of the living.

Apart from the grace of Christ, millions will come to the provocative conclusion that Solomon suggests for the godless in Ecclesiastes 6:3–6,
"If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he—for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, 6 even if he lives a thousand years twice—but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place?"

However, those who do have Christ can have a heart confidence that His intentions toward us are ever good—not only in an "eventually this will do you good" sort of way, but also in a "this is doing good for those who have the best definition of good" sort of way. 

And we know that government—even tyrannical and monstrously foolish government (is there any other kind?)—cannot be an exception to this because of His cross. Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" So, we submit out of reverence for Christ. 

And may we not confuse gracious submission with approval 
But submission is not the same as approval. Yes, it is a violation of God's law to be careless with life (6th Commandment). And with more fear than facts, and real possibilities of a much more severe outcome, it has been a season in which it has been appropriate to extend great grace to those in authority, knowing that they see even more (and more real) conflicting data than we do, and that it is not easy to determine the wisest course of action from such data. 

Would that wives would extend such grace in their assessment of their husband's exercise of authority. Would that throughout our church memberships we would extend such grace also to elders who are something of fathers in the faith to us, and especially that throughout out childhoods and the memories of those childhoods we would extend such grace to our fathers and our mothers and our memories of them.

But may those in authority also submit to the authority of Christ in all of His law
But this does bring us to the issue of the 5th Commandment and what God implies when He makes the first representatives of all authority fathers and mothers. With every particle of the necessity to assert authority, there is also a duty of self-sacrificial regard for the well-being of those under the authority.

There is no room for grandstanding or pride, but a demand for humility that is willing to take the new, better course of action even at the cost of being seen (rightly or wrongly) as adjusting for what may have been foolish. This is where many of those in authority find themselves today.

And finally, the God of the 6th Commandment, Who demands a respect for every man's life, is every bit as much the God of the 8th Commandment, Who demands a respect for every man's property (which He at times in Scripture refers to as that man's "life," and from which we get the term, "livelihood.")

Since God's law does not contradict itself, it requires the exercise of (and crying out to God for) great wisdom that our application of it would be harmonious as well. It is evident that few of our civil magistrates either have it in quantity or cry out for it in quantity, and therefore it remains especially to those whose hands have been kept holy from wrath or doubting that we would raise them unto God on behalf of those whom He has set over us (1Timothy 2:1–8).

And may specifically American authorities see what that means for them under Christ
Up until this point, I have tried to write in such a way that would be more universal and principial, but I am a man called to minister in a specific place at a specific time.

The Scripture teaches that what authorities exist come from God (Rom 13:1). In my context, this includes federal and state constitutions. This means that even executive authorities must submit to these documents, for they and the documents both are under the authority of Another Executive—the King over all kings, and Lord over all lords. 

And while subordinates must submit, lesser magistrates yet have a duty to govern under Christ—and under that authority under which He has providentially placed them by these documents to which they have sworn oaths before Him (even documents that are wickedly agnostic and assert that authority comes from the people rather than the Lord!). So, it becomes important for mayors and sheriffs and others to know the documents and follow them for the sake of those under them.

They may fear having to answer to those immediately above them. Let them have a greater regard for having to answer to Christ.

And may God grant them wisdom and humility to adjust appropriately to changing circumstances
Also in my context, there is the need to recognize that the increase of earthly government is a curse. It is only of King Jesus that it can be a joy to say, "of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:7). Proverbs 28:2 says, "Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes; but by a man of understanding and knowledge, right will be prolonged."

There is no doubt that if through all this the Lord gives us even bigger and more authoritarian government than we have sadly had in recent years, it will be what our land deserves for its transgression. How great its transgression has been! But even if such things must come, woe to them through whom they come. Shall we not instead exercise understanding and knowledge, so that right may be prolonged?

A month ago, when we knew less, and the gap in our knowledge included the real threat that medical resources would be overwhelmed at some point, it made sense to preempt the possibility of an unnecessarily lethal season in the spread of the sars-cov-2 virus.

But now we know more, have increased capacities, and have even succeeded in managing resources by patient transport and distribution in places where spread has been most intense. These things are now accomplishing the purposes which might have necessitated measures otherwise detrimental to society. The reader who does the linguistic arithmetic on those two sentences will either have to disagree with the premises or come to the conclusion that further detriment is unnecessary. And, I would say therefore, culpable before God to whom authorities must answer. 

It may have been the measures that they instituted that kept us from getting to a place of saturation; if so, praise God. It also may not have been; if not, still—praise God! But however we arrived at this point, the fact remains that we have arrived. The Lord has granted our desire that we would not come to a place where we are in danger of saturating our medical resource usage.

What, then, are our current responsibilities to our neighbor and goals of the magistrate? It is impossible to keep people, ultimately, from contracting the virus. And, many will die of it in the providence of God. And we are to labor to preserve their lives so far as we reasonably can—and to give gospel comfort, so far as we can, to the sick and the dying and the bereaved.

But it is the height of arrogance (and not at all the appropriate reasoning by which isolation measures began) to think that continuation of these measures is somehow reducing the number who will die of this. And should the Lord tarry, we will all eventually die of something. We will either die with Christ, by faith in Him, or without Him. And let those who have Christ by faith, follow His law by that same faith, as He upholds us to do so by His grace.

Which things our form of government permits and encourages believers to tell them
As Christian citizens, we submit out of reverence for and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. And we pray for all our magistrates at every level. And call upon lesser magistrates to do their duty unto the highest Magistrate.

And, thankfully, the authority that He has placed over us in this land gives us the opportunity to communicate to our authorities what their Authority says about how they are to carry out their office. It is your writer's desire that this would help some believers as they do so.

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