Friday, March 17, 2017

Church vs. State? ................ Parables 563

July 22, 1997

Mandy shut her eyes and shouted, “There, you’re gone. I made you disappear.”

Her pesky brother laughed back, “You wish!”

Major segments of the population wouldn’t last long if shutting our eyes could make them go away. Neither would any other offensive realities. Nevertheless, recently elected members of the Michigan Board of Education have decided to try it anyway.

They voted five to three against certain portions of their mission statement. The unwanted and offensive parts “thanked God for the blessings of freedom,” and said “children are created by God” and “religion is necessary for good government.” Those statements are supposedly “a violation of laws concerning separation of church and state.”

Is that really the intent of that mission statement and those laws? By its nature, the church (at least as described in the Bible) is a group of people under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. It cannot be ruled by anyone else and still be the church. However, in the days of the Roman Empire, the emperors were declared head of the church regardless of their spiritual qualifications. They ruled as they pleased. This often resulted in not only bad government but in serious spiritual deterioration in the church. More recently, Christians have welcomed laws that protect the church’s unique submission to Christ from being undermined by ungodly political entities.

At the same time, the Bible teaches that we are to “submit to the governing authorities” unless they demand we disobey God. In a normal sense, “they are God’s servants to do us good” (Romans 13). The idea is that political leaders should also submit themselves to God so their rule is wise and just. God had no intention that leaders abandon a genuine, biblical religion.

Even though political abuse of God’s principles once motivated laws to protect the church from political domination, now the church is considered a threat to political entities. In an odd turnabout, leaders are using these same laws to keep God and God-fearing people from having a voice in the way they govern. This has gone so far as to strike mention of God and religion from anything remotely connected to government activities and documents. It is as if they think that by putting both out of sight, God and religion will simply disappear.

Apart from using separation of church and state to keep God from political and legal arenas, many individuals also try to shut their eyes to God. While they may want a God who is there when they need Him, as in tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, they push Him out of day-to-day decision making. Unless disaster strikes, both individuals and governing bodies would rather try and make Him disappear than admit any need for help from Him.

The psalmist observed a similar foolishness in his day. He asks, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say...”

He goes on, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs. . . I have installed my King on Zion...”

God has firmly established Christ as Sovereign King over all. Shutting our eyes or pretending He does not exist will not make Him vanish. According to God, He is Lord, whether we say so or not.

As for religion, people who “thank God for the blessings of freedom” should appreciate and safeguard that freedom. People who know they are “children created by God” should respect themselves and others. People who feel that “religion is necessary for good government” should bring godly wisdom and fairness into their political activities.

Shutting out God will not make Him go away but what will happen if closing our eyes to Him instead shuts out freedom, respect, and justice?

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