June 15, 1993
Next to sports and entertainment, the most prevalent topic in an average daily newspaper is politics, politicians and political issues.
During elections, the stories multiply. Many of them debate which hopeful is the best or the worst candidate for leadership. Some quote platform promises.
Some of those promises sound much like Absalom, son of King David, who wanted the throne of his father: “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice” (2 Sam 15:4).
Verse 5 says Absalom “reached out his hand, took hold of and kissed” everyone who came and honored him. He was a clever (but underhanded) politician who “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”
A few hundred years later, a king named Herod also made some interesting political moves. When John the Baptist told him it was “not lawful” that he stole his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:4), Herod was upset. He wanted to put John to death; however he feared the people who thought John was a prophet. So put him in prison instead. But Herod’s wife ruled the king. She managed to trick him into a situation where he was pressured to save face in front of his followers. The only way to do it was by beheading John after all.
Not long after that, a certain governor named Pilate asked an angry crowd why he should pass sentence on an innocent man (Matthew 27). They responded with even louder demands for that man’s death. Pilate realized he was not getting anywhere so he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, declared this man’s blood was on their hands.
These stories point out both leaders and followers have some responsibility to hold to legal and moral standards. In that sense, Herod and Pilate not only failed, but so did the people whose demands swayed their decisions.
In the usual sense, neither were even leaders. Both listened to whoever made the most noise or put the most pressure on them (which seems to be the democratic way) rather than stand firm for law and justice. They let fools without concern for truth or right tell them what to do.
Herod’s biggest concern was his public opinion poles. Pilate may have had some sense of legality but his fear of explaining a Jewish riot to his Roman superiors overrode his fear of making an illegal decision. Then he wouldn’t take responsibility, but he did tell the crowd they were guilty of killing the Son of God.
Obviously everyone is responsible for good government. The Bible says leaders should obey God and do right. It also says followers are to pray for their leaders and obey them. If we don’t like what they do, sometimes it is because they are merely listening to whoever is making the most noise.
In a democracy, where leadership represents the wishes of voters, we are also responsible for the demands we make. We are responsible for letting them know what we appreciate as well. Sadly, even good leaders only hear grumbling. David was the best king Israel ever had, yet all some could think of was get him off the throne and put in someone like Absalom, who was dishonest and deceitful, in his place.
Even though she sometimes doesn’t like current political policies, my mother often says we get the government we deserve. Maybe she is right.