Where do I draw the line when it comes to obeying the government?

Monday Musings for October 11, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

Have you ever noticed that when you “do” good you “feel” good? God set the world up that way. From the way he made us in particular (… self-aware moral agents with a great capacity to do things) to the way he made the cosmos (… knowable through mathematics, philosophically satisfying and yielding to our touch), the world that encompasses us is best enjoyed through cooperating with its systems.

“For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:16, NIV)

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. “ (1 Timothy 6:6, NIV)

Now, the opposite is true too. If we “do” bad things, we will feel bad… although I understand that rebellion can be exciting at the moment. But rebellion is not our native state; it is our default state… our fallen state. The truth is, we were made for better things (Genesis 1:26).

Because of this, even though our default state is one of sin and rebellion (Romans 3:23), those who are not living for God live under tension. Eventually, the “bad’ feelings caused by this tension will ruin the “good” feelings of rebellion.

This good/bad dichotomy is the basis of everything we are — and everything we feel — here on earth… and how we feel about the government is no exception.

I understand that no government is perfect. But if we “do good” — that is, if we give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7) — we will feel good … and sometimes feel a little soiled.

Now, cooperating with the world’s systems can be tricky. But not only are its systems the only game in town, God is the one who set them up! But we live in a fallen world, so moral or systemic perfection is not attainable. That being said, we can see it… and that longing view towards perfection is a look into the eyes of God.

When Jesus returns, he will come into a world that is not perfect — and I suspect that he will teach it a lesson or two. But both thermodynamics and the Book of Revelation point to a far future… to a point where perfection is possible because sin and death have been destroyed.

In the meantime, we have to deal with our two natures: we are practical and dirty creatures on the one hand… and we are made in the image of God on the other. It is because of the latter that we strive for moral perfection. We know we can’t reach it — yet we long for it. That is the condition of human beings.

Until Jesus comes, the best we can hope for is optimum results — and a surprising amount of the Bible speaks to just that. Although we are saved by grace and not by works, if you want to feel like a child of God, then do good works. God wants us to be good citizens of both kingdoms.

 

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