The word government meant, first of all, the self-government of the Christian man, the basic government in all history. Second, and very closely and almost inseparately linked with this, government meant the family. Every family is a government; it is man’s first church and first school, and also his first state. The government of the family by God’s appointed head, the man, is basic to society. Third, the church is a government, with laws and discipline. Fourth, the school is an important government in the life of the child [and is an extension of family government]. Fifth, business or vocations are an important area of government. Our work clearly governs us and we govern our work. Sixth, private associations, friendships, organisations, and the like act as a government over us, in that we submit to these social standards and we govern others by our social expectations. Seventh, the state, is a form of government, and, originally, it was always called civil government in distinction from all these other forms of government.
Christians of every era are required by God to think carefully about the kind of government they should want and expect. This is not a light thing. Like marriage, it is something we ought to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully, because the attitudes of God’s people towards governments historically, have more often than not been far from God’s plan.
When this occurs, we can be sure that it will not end painlessly. In Hosea’s day, God spoke to Israel about her poor political choices in Saul’s time, centuries earlier.
Where now is your king that he may save you in all your cities, and your judges of whom you requested, “Give me a king and princes?” I gave you a king in My anger and took him away in My wrath (Hos.13:10-11).
So when the church makes its errors in relation to government, it means pain for everybody, including the church. Minimally, we finish up with egg on our faces, but commonly it’s much worse.
How do we stop this?
We have to realise that God has created spheres of responsibility. These apply to individuals, to families, the church and to government, or the State. This requires that we understand the Biblical limits of institutions. As Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
Government actually begins with self-government. As an individual, I have responsibilities and obligations to fulfill, firstly to God, and secondly to others. The Bible says that “…each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Ro.14:12).
Adam began life as an adult individual under God, and there was much for him to learn and to do. Before long God gave him Eve, and so he had responsibilities towards her, too. He’d been alone with God, so he was to teach and explain to her what God had given him to do, for she was now part of this whole picture. Their tasks began with cultivating and keeping the Garden, but there was much more. Dominion is a many-sided responsibility.
But it was just the two of them, a family of two, for now. The formal institutions beyond the family, the church and the State, were non-existent for the moment.
If God says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex.20:14), and “I hate divorce” (Mal.2:16), this should be reflected in law as well. When it is not reflected in law, it tells us we have pagans in the Parliament and an ineffective, toothless, silenced church. This is not looking good.
Yes, divorce is sometimes necessary, but it ought not to be something treated in law with the contempt that it is today. Since 1975, Australia has had No Fault Divorce legislation, which means that the innocent, aggrieved spouse will not be financially protected in the breakup.
Could this have been deliberate? Of course.
No Fault divorce legislation was introduced by a socialist, Lionel Murphy, who was Australia’s Attorney General. Like all real socialists, he was contemptuous of the family, and happy to see it destroyed. He wanted individuals to be able to destroy their marriage without facing financial penalties. Thus from the day of that law’s passing, divorce rates in Australia rapidly accelerated.
Because the family is important to God, the apostle Paul taught that the responsibility of husbands is to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph.5:25).
He also taught that older women in the church were to train younger women to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonoured” (Titus 2:4-5).
Thus from a Biblical perspective, we see that the health and well-being of the family is basic to any community. The Biblical family needs to be protected in law, and also to be left alone to do what it chooses to do. It doesn’t need to be propped up by government payments which only teach the family dependence anyway, and are a manipulative tool of destruction. Dependence is a very bad habit for anyone to get caught up in, including the family.
Just as in the Garden, true government begins with the individual and his personal accountability to God. The Biblical institution of marriage means there is at least another person to consider, so the family is a place of accountability (both to God and to one another), and teamwork. The idea of “one another” which is so important in the church and society, commences in the family.
A Christian attitude towards government teaches that “less is best,” because accountable people need less oversight. The more civil government we have, the more likely we are to be abused by that government, for it has gone beyond its Biblical limitations.
The challenge for people is to learn to be accountable: “…each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Ro.14:12).