It is important to remember that there are tasks that government cannot do, tasks that God has entrusted to the church and to the Holy Spirit working through the Bible, which is the Word of God. The civil government…even a very good one…cannot save people from their sins, for that can come about only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. [Eph. 2:8-9]. It is only God who can promise, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you”. [Ezek. 36:26]. It is God who can say,”I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” [Heb. 8:10]. Christians should never place their ultimate hope in any government for changing human hearts or making a nation of sinful people into a nation of holy and righteous people before God. That is the work of God alone, and is carried out by His church as it proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ and people put their trust in Christ. This is important for Christians who work to influence the government. You can bet that satan has his minions out there trying to influence the government all that they can. We must remember that the primary need of every society is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel that is made known through the church, not through the government. Through Jesus Christ alone can people truly know God and lead lives pleasing to God.
Christians who seek to influence government must also remember that inwardly transformed people are needed if we are ever going to see a transformed society. A previous government administration attempted transformation of this nation, however, the transformation seemed to be away from God and His Gospel. Merely passing good laws and having good government will never be enough to change society. The people of Israel in the Old Testament had good laws from God himself, but those laws did not keep people from going astray and eventually bringing God’s judgment on themselves. Therefore, we must constantly remember that winning elections is not enough to change a nation. Christians could in theory gain enough influence to overturn the Supreme Court decision about abortion in Roe v. Wade, pass pro-life laws that protect the pre-born, and pass defense-of-marriage laws, yet all of that will not be able to stop people from having pre-marital sex or getting abortions somehow or committing homosexual acts, unless there is a change of the people’s hearts and minds as well. Laws work best when they govern people who have good moral character and moral convictions. If an entire society is corrupt, laws will only be able to restrain the most egregious examples of sin and will leave the rest untouched. As Founding Father John Adams said,”Our Constitution was made for a moral and righteous people. It is wholly inadequate for the governance of any other.”[John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Adams, Boston: Little Brown, 1854]. Unless a country has transformed people, it is unlikely that it will be able to pass very good laws or elect very good leaders. No candidate can win elections campaigning on ‘moral values in government’ if the population as a whole lacks those moral values. Therefore, it is important that the church continue in its task of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change people’s hearts and minds one at a time. Once people become Christians, it is important to teach them about moral principals from the Bible, including not only principals of conduct for their individual lives, but also principals concerning the roles and responsibilities of civil government. Much of this can be taught from the pulpit.
As much effort as the church may put forth in teaching God’s principals to the public there is still a strong adversary in the teaching of moral convictions, the government. Governments significantly influence people’s moral convictions and behavior and the moral fabric of a nation. Next week we will look at that conflict.
– Bob Munsey