One of my absolute favorite movies is Gladiator with Russel Crow. Years ago, when I was in a different profession and worked from home, I would have Gladiator playing in the background as I worked. I played it over and over and over; I thought I’d worn out the DVD! There are sections of that movie that still cause me to cease what I’m doing and watch. There are lessons on integrity, loyalty, love and standing up to tyranny. But there’s one phrase from the movie that keeps repeating in my mind, especially after last week.
Candidate Clinton, President-elect Trump, President Obama, media pundits, many on both sides of the isle and a slew of those who voted continue to refer to America as a “Democracy”. In so doing, they’re not only incorrect but create confusion. If a person doesn’t know anything about civics, then perhaps the nomenclature doesn’t matter. But when people get angry as to why the popular vote doesn’t always rule in a Presidential election, or why they can’t vote directly on a law, it gets crazy!
We are a Republic, not a democracy (I say this for emphasis). In fact, the founding Fathers were quite adverse to establishing a pure democracy. Some would argue their aversions were based on self-serving reasons, but regardless, we are not a democracy. America is a Constitutional Republic. You can substitute "democratic" for “constitutional” and that’s okay, we are certainly democratic in practice, but the focus has to be on “Republic”. The majority doesn’t rule, the Constitution does. Officials are elected to represent the people, the public does not govern itself, directly. And hence, my recollection of the movie, Gladiator.
Until the formation of a Constitutional Convention or amendments are successfully implemented to change the system or something far more nefarious takes place, we're stuck. Make no mistake; there are issues with every system that’s employed. Some are better than others; nothing is perfect.
On the one hand, it’s important to understand the differences in governmental structure and practice so we have a clear grasp of what our role is and how to affect needed change. But there’s also a sense that it doesn’t matter one bit!
If we don’t regularly remind ourselves of these truths our purpose and focus will get skewed.
As a person of faith in Jesus, I’m called to have a different perspective and focus. Whether the system serves me well or poorly, I’m called to fix my eyes on the principles and practices of Jesus, who being in very nature God, humbled himself and became a servant. I’m to care for the broken, fight for injustice, honor those in authority over me and give to the government what’s theirs and to God what’s His. If we don’t regularly remind ourselves of these truths, our purpose and focus will get skewed.
I know a lot of people who are upset by this election. I’ve spent time with a few of them to hear their concerns and fears and I share several of them. I tried to do the same in the last election as well. Why? Because I’m called to honor God and people over systems. People matter!
As a follower of Jesus, I have a higher calling to honor God in all my life over politics. America is not a theocracy, governed by God.
This fact demands a better understanding of what God requires of us as we live in a Republic. Not to simply be a “good citizen” but to critically evaluate our role in society as we seek to love our neighbor.
The first section of chapter thirteen of the New Testament letter to Romans talks about a believer’s tone and approach to government. The passage makes very clear that all governments are set up by God - all governments. That means, at times, God allows an evil government to come to power. We can’t escape this historical truth. But, what we may miss is this: the intention of God for all governments is to care for and serve the people in truth and righteousness. When either the populous or the officials step outside of these boundaries, there is a righteous and holy God who watches. The passage focuses on Believers, but we understand from other sections that governments are accountable as well. There’s an underlying tone that oppressive governments will be dealt with, eventually.
I must drop my eyes in humility and to my knees in prayer, seeking the greater glory of God and the care of people around me.
So, as I reflect on the past week and contemplate the future, I must choose to try and understand what is happening through the grid of biblical teaching. I cannot side with politics and chant, “Republic, Republic!” nor can I scream, “Not my President!” Rather, I must drop my eyes in humility and to my knees in prayer, seeking the greater glory of God and the care of people around me. I must be a person of love in action while honoring those in authority over me. I must put the government in its proper place while keeping God at the center of my focus and affections.
What will you do?