In America today, everybody and their brother is critical of our government. It is fashionable to bash our country: almost all the Hollywood crowd does it, and just about all of the Fourth Estate, as well. It is considered absurdly sentimental at best, and incredibly stupid at worst, to be patriotic these days.
Just about everyone seems to think that we are the world's bad guy, and that the rest of the world is justified in hating us. One example that illustrates this is that shortly after the surge of patriotism following 9/11, officials in a California city refused to display American flags on their firetrucks anymore, because it "offended" those of other nationalities.
It is also fashionable to bash Christianity. Christians in America today are viewed as an uneducated, simple-minded, weak and gullible fools, who needs the "crutch" of religion to get by. Every other religion is freely accepted, except Christianity. You can choose to worship Mother Nature, Father Earth, Buddha, Vishna, Krishna, Mohammed, or space invaders, if you choose, but don't be caught worshiping God!
In fact, they are doing their very best to remove any mention of His name--- we've allowed them to remove prayer from public schools, the Ten Commandments from public buildings, nativity scenes from public property--- the list goes on and on. People choose to disregard the fact that this country was founded by Christian men, who acknowledged the providence of the Almighty God in establishing our country.
Criticism of governments is nothing new to America. It has existed ever since man began to form governing bodies. The Pharisees, a powerful religious sect in Christ's time, tried to use criticism of the existing government to stir up some trouble with Jesus himself. Caesar had ordered that a tribute be paid, and the Pharisees asked Jesus, "Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not?" (Matthew 22:17)
The question was a trap: If Jesus said it was not lawful, they intended to accuse Him to the civil authority as being an enemy to the Romans; if He should say it was lawful, they meant to accuse Him to the people as being opposed to the law of God. Jesus understood their hypocrisy, however, and beat them at their own game.
Romans 13:1 tells us that every government, authority or power, is ordained by God. They exist to serve His purpose. Daniel 2:21 tells us: He raises up kings and kingdoms, and He casts them down, as well. However powerful they might be, it is only by His greater power that they reign, right where He placed them. When we become critical of our country, we need to realize that God is still the One in control. Our rulers will be held accountable by the Sovereign God himself, for how they wield their authority. We can rest assured in the confidence that He watches over every action, and repays each person according to their deeds.
In the Old Testament, we read of the leaders of Israel and Judah, the judges and the kings, and how they ruled. It is interesting that God sometimes gave the people a better leader than they deserved. Josiah was an excellent example of this. When Josiah became king, the people of Israel had neglected God's word for so long that they didn't even know what it said anymore. In the 18th year of his reign, Josiah assigned men to repair the temple of the Lord. It was during this renovation that a priest found the Book of the Law that had been given through Moses. The book had been hidden in the temple, apparently to keep it safe from both invading armies and wicked kings.
When the priest read the words of the book, Josiah tore his robes, a sign of great distress, grief, or repentance. Josiah gathered all the elders, and all the people of Judah from greatest to least, and read the entire Book of the Law to them. Then he made a covenant in the presence of the Lord, to keep all of God's commandments and obey the Lord. He had every person pledge themselves to the covenant; and as long as Josiah was alive, the people did not stray from it.
Other times God gave people exactly the kind of leader they deserved. Saul was a good example of this. Up until Saul's time, God had raised up judges to rule over Israel. The people would follow God, until the judge died. Then they would turn back to their wrong-doing and idolatry. It would always lead to their being in bondage to some other nation, and they would then cry out to God to save them from their bondage, forgetting that their own disobedience to God was what put them there in the first place!
Samuel was the last great judge of Israel. He named his sons to serve as judges after him, but they walked in wickedness, and took bribes, and perverted justice. So all the elders came to Samuel, and told him they wanted a king to rule over them, like all the other nations had. Samuel prayed to God about it. Now, God had chosen this ungrateful nation, and He was supposed to be their king, but they had rejected Him, so God gave them a king exactly like they deserved.
Samuel tried to warn them. He said this king would take away their sons for use in his own army; and would use them as servants to plow his fields and reap his harvest, to make his chariots and instruments of war. This king would also take their daughters, to be cook and bakers, servants for his house. He would also takes their fields and vinyards, and sheep, and give them to those of his own choosing. He would take a tenth of their harvest to feed his officials and his servants. He would take all their servants and work animals, and put them to his own use. and he would make servants out of all the people.
And yet, even with all these dire warnings ringing in their ears, the people still cried out "Give us a king!" So God gave the people the kind of leader they deserved; He had Samuel anoint Saul to be the first king of Israel. The people were wicked, and so was their king.
The actions of the people often determined what kind of leader they would have. Obedience is always a critical issue with God. Rulers were oftentimes used of God as His arm of correction. He would send a foriegn army to overthrow His chosen people, and would allow them to take His people into captivity.
Why did God allow this? Two reasons. To punish them for their disobedience, and to make them turn back to Him. It is important to remember that the goal of God's punishment is always to make His people turn away from their disobedience and back to Him, not just to make them suffer. He will allow suffering, but there is a purpose for it.
Even during the reign of wicked rulers, God purifies His church. There have been numerous times in history that the church has been targeted. Christians have often been persecuted and have suffered condemnation, even death. But even such persecution is used by the Sovereign and Almighty God to cleanse and purify His church. The church grows more under persecution, in fact, because they learn to turn to God constantly, and to rely fully upon Him.
There is no doubt that Christians are being persecuted around the world today. In some areas, it is a sentence of death to be a Christian. And right here in America, Christians are being persecuted as never before. With such attitudes prevailing in America today, how are we, as Christians, supposed to practice our faith and be the witnesses God wants us to be? There are three ways we can practice our faith and witness to a lost world around us in America today. We must:
- OBEY Christians must obey the laws of the land, unless and until those laws specifically conflict with God's law. This is not an option; it is God's command for us.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Rom. 13:1)