Friday, 1 May 2009

A godly attitude to government

"Sometimes it falls out that those under the government of others are most injurious by waywardness and harsh censures, herein disparaging and discouraging the endeavours of superiors for the public good. In so great weakness of man's nature, and especially in this crazy age of the world, we ought to take in good part any moderate happiness we enjoy by government, and not be altogether as a nail in the wound, exasperating things by misconstruction. Here love should have a mantle to cast upon lesser errors of those above us. Oftentimes the poor man is the oppressor by unjust clamours. We should labour to give the best interpretation to the actions of governors that the nature of the actions will possibly bear."

Richard Sibbes wrote those words in 1630 in The Bruised Reed, but it was their contemporary ring that struck me, as well as surprise at finding such a subject in a book dealing with the gentleness of Christ toward us, his weak and faltering people, and the implications of this truth for us. Would we have thought of such an application of this truth?
It's so easy to get swept along with the popular delight in criticising every move our politicians make or don't make (whilst of course not lifting a finger ourselves to address any of the issues they're tackling). It's especially easy when we see laws being debated and passed which we know are totally opposed to biblical teaching. My guess is that nearly every single one of us requires a revolution in our thinking to be able to emulate Sibbes' teaching here. We long for godly rule, but are we reducing the chances of that because politicians have so much time taken up defending themselves and their policies from the cynical and suspicious criticisms of people like us? If we gave their actions 'the best interpretation... that the nature of the actions will possibly bear' how much more time would our leaders have to get on and deal with the things that really matter?
I'm not suggesting we become hopelessly naive, but rather that in a deeply cynical culture the followers of the gentle Lord Jesus who would not break a bruised reed should stand out with the same powerful gentleness our Saviour showed - even in the political arena.

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