Sometime ago I was talking to an American friend about a Christian homeschooling curriculum for history. We talked about Church history, influences of Rome and Greece, and finally hit upon a pertinent question that could have perhaps, stirred up a hornet’s nest.
‘What do you think about the American Revolution? Do you think it was Biblical to resist the colonial imperialism of the Brits?’, I quizzed her.
She thought for a while, and gave her two cents, ‘Well, I think it was Biblical because the revolt began with the breach of a mutual covenant that the two nations made’.
Silence for a few seconds.
‘What about Gandhi? Do you think his resistance can be viewed as Biblical?’
Just yesterday, we waved our Indian flags zestfully, sang our national anthem with tears welling up in our eyes, and perhaps watched Chak de India or Gandhi to spruce up our spirits, which is altogether good and commendable. However, little do we retrospect the form that our national freedom movement took. Mahatma Gandhi won a prized treasure for us. Agreed. But was the camouflage of ahimsa -owing to which also, he repeatedly breached Section 309 of the 1860 IPC by undertaking fast unto death – something that God would approve of? Looking back at my last post, I recognize that it’s easy for anyone to get perplexed with the topic of civil or corporate resistance: When should we resist the government? What Gandhi did was non-violent and peaceful, and the British treated us spitefully . Should we not defy their immoral authority? Does God expect us to merely endure or resist persecution individually and quietly? Is it wrong to sign petitions to end persecution of our suffering brothers around the world? These are valid and genuine concerns that we as Christians can have. To unravel the answer to such questions -of when and how we must exercise resistance against God-ordained authorities -we must find out what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.
Three Reality Bites
Take a look at these four recent news clips that will help us progress in finding some answers to the above questions.
Scene 1: Obamacare announces free abortion-care
As of August 1, 2012, all US employers are now required to offer abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization for their employees. Employers are obligated to provide these services at no cost to their employees through their company’s health insurance. If employers don’t change their plans, they will be hit with fines of up to $100 per employee per day.
Scene 2: Team Anna on perennial Dharna
After fasting for a week and half and witnessing no response from the government on the Jan Lokpal Bill, Arvind Kejriwal on Aug 3, 2012, steered the anti-corruption movement into the political arena, challenging the parliamentary powers head-on. “Having faced with an indifferent government, we have realized the need to reposition our struggle on the street in such a way so that we can enter Parliament, not just for capturing power, but for uprooting the corrupt government and changing the entire system.” he told the audience at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. Prashanth Bushan, the key strategist of the people’s movement against corruption which began a year ago is calling for “a total political revolution…an electoral revolution“.
Scene 3: Operation Nehemiah inaugurated to counter corruption in Indian churches
On Sep 2, 2011, roughly fifty of India’s topmost Christian leaders convened at the largest, 7-star hotel in Bangalore to deliberate a plan to eradicate the rampant corruption in Indian churches – both organized and independent. The leaders were chosen from a breadth of denominations ( including the Roman Catholic ) and para-church organizations, some of whom I even know personally. As the reporter of the news item put it “Operation Nehemiah is certainly no panacea for everything that ails the church, but it raises hopes in the hearts of every church goer in India who feels exasperated by the in-house scams…the infamous denominational rivalry was set aside for a common goal”. One leader also observed that with this operation, “…it will become harder for slippery church officials to get away ever so easily..”
Question: What’s the key issue that’s common in these three recent events?
I believe the answer is this – Nobody knows their job. The secular government of America is binding the hands of corporations on a religious issue. The civilians of India are biting off more than they can chew, when it comes to law-making and corporate policy decisions. The inter-denominational alliance of self-proclaimed leaders seem to want to tame the Bride of Christ, and according to their measure of “corruption” ( deliberating the same with corrupt shepherds and heretical churches ). I can probably write another post just on the last issue, since it involves many godly men and calls for a thoughtful response.
Most problems that we are facing the world over is primarily owing to either misplaced authority or misaligned submission. This is where we need proper jurisdictional authority i.e. understanding biblical spheres of influence ( jurisdiction ) and the line of authority and autonomy of each one. Let me share with you a diagram that will help define these boundaries better.
Before I share some notes on this diagram, let me tell you that this is no easy subject. Empires have risen and fallen on the issue of separation of these jurisdictions, and thought-leaders are still deliberating in our century as to how to best reconstruct the society for economic growth and social harmony. I’m no economist. I’m just a home-builder striving to see what God has to say on these things, which I believe must be of utmost importance to Christians concerning all matters.
If we scan the entire Bible, three jurisdictions starkly stand out from cover to cover: the Church (Exo 18;Num 11:24-30; Exo 28:33-35; 36-38; 10:6,8-11; 1Tim 3:1-13,17,18; Tit1:5), the State (Exo 18; 1Sam 8:9-18; Ps 2; Prov 21:1;Rom 13:1-7) and the Family (Gen 18:16-19; Deut 6:4-9;Prov 13:24; Prov29:15; Eph6:1; Col 3:20 ). In OT times, the Church and State were fused together into a Theocratic society, however, with the addition of Gentiles into the Church, the latter is now a boundary-less entity. We are here not talking about the Invisible Church which is the organic Body of Christ, contained with true believers from all ages, but the Visible Church which is now universal, heterogeneous and organized.
Each of these three jurisdictions hold a God-given authority, a symbol of their role in God’s economy. The Church holds the Keys (Matt16:18-20) to the kingdom of God, and the standard interpretation of this instrument is that the church has the spiritual authority to welcome and excommunicate members in the local ecclesia. The State bears the Sword of Judgement (Rom 13:4) to curtail evil by punishing those disobedient to the Law of God. The Family wields the Rod of Discipline (Prov 13:24) to chastise and teach their children in the way they must go.
Notice the definite roles of these three God-ordained institutions in the above diagram – not one of them is given a specific calling that belongs to another jurisdiction. There is perfect order in God’s grand administrative design. Of course, there are intersections between these jurisdictions when decisions have to be taken together. For eg: If a covenant child is having an affair with a girl in church, the father and the elders of the church have to discipline the son owing to the impact his actions have on the local church. Take that a step further, and say, the child murders someone, then the church would call him to repentance, the state would punish his act, and the family would chastise him for his act and hand him over for his due. You will recall that in Deut 21:18-21, the godly parents of the rebellious son who is like a mule, had to hand him over to death by public stoning, in order to purge the evil from amongst them.
But these jurisdictions are not just about command and control. They are about progressing the Kingdom of God and attempting to fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of our God (Hab2:14).
Imagine what India would look like if the pulpits pounded with the pure word of God, if the elders managed the tithes for the poor, the widows and the orphans and to advance the Gospel mission, if they faithfully shepherded and tended the flock under them using both rod and staff, if they inspired and equipped the saints for works of ministry and protected the sheep from wolves and their heresies.
Imagine what India would be like if families were headed by strong men of God, who worked hard with their hands and economically progressed the country and the gifts of God bestowed on them, if their wives were all like Proverbs 31 women, if the children were bred and brought up in all kinds of learning from the home, if they learnt skills at a young age from their fathers and therefore built up as godly leaders for church and society.
Imagine what India would look like if these godly children grew up to be ministers and servants of the state, defending our people and administering justice through the Law of God, proclaiming good news of the Kingdom in our lands!
Soch ka Bhoj
Isn’t that a fantastic vision? This is the Idealist Society that we as Christians must pray and strive for. This is no Platonic Utopia, the mere speculation of one’s imaginations, but God’s sure and grand design for a glorious rule in our land through King Jesus, who is even now seated at the right hand of our Father and ruling from heaven.
True, this is the picture of a Christian society and an ideal one. The scene is far from savory today. There are great many problems in all these jurisdictions.
Our churches are dying, our fathers are sleeping and our government is drunk.
To add to this, those who see the problems are gung-ho about solving them and interfere in businesses that are not theirs to manage. Even worse, owing to the corruption of these institutions in a pagan land like ours, these very ministers of God defy His authority and compel our consciences to bow down to their rules instead of God’s explicit edicts. This is where godly resistance applies.
If a husband compels his wife to tell a lie, she must resist him and submit herself to God’s authority. If the pastor of a church preaches heresy from the pulpit, the elders or male members must rebuke him privately. If the government coaxes or compels you to have only two children and sets up hospitals to perform vasectomy/tubectomy on you, you must most definitely resist it and follow the Word of God (Ps 127:3, Ps 128:3 ). If the government sets up a rule that homosexuality is legal, then local churches must appeal to the state to retract the ungodly law. This applies not only when the law affects us as Christians, but for the sake of God’s Law.
Prayer must under-gird all these private and corporate resistances that those in authority may repent and God may bring about His righteous rule through difficult situations. “Is all this possible? Or are we wishful in our thinking?”. Well, it’s like asking “Will God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven?” after praying this prayer a zillion times. In my next post I’ll show you that what we are praying for isn’t something surreal, but has already been done in history.
1. Doug Phillips: The Para-church Paradox. This is a must-listen for all those wanting to explore the topic of jurisdictional authority.