Dial 000, we teach our kids. There’s always someone there. If the threat is physical violence, the police will save us. If the threat is fire, the fire brigade will save us. If the threat is medical, the ambulance will save us.
Government provides these services, including 000. So thank God for governments. They are his servants, authorized by God to save us from a whole range of violent threats.
We rarely think about that when we talk about salvation at church. There we use the word saved to mean being saved from personal guilt or from condemnation in the afterlife. We use the same word to mean two completely different things, without stopping to think why. We can do that because we segregate the secular and religious dimensions of life into isolated compartments.
Our culture has taught us to think this way. Separation of church and state is a key dogma of the modern world.
But the God of the Bible is not limited to the spiritual well-being of his people. His oversight extends to every area of life — religious, political, social. That’s why God provides governments. Think of him as king over all kings.
The Bible also talks about the rebellion against God’s kingship. Lust for power that should be in God’s hands — that’s the nature of sin, the source of all the violence.
Governments are run by people. The people God provides to limit violence are part of the rebellion, so it’s no surprise that they also perpetrate violence. That’s true at every level, from assassination and police brutality to global conflict and all-out war. People in power use that power for selfish ends. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts people absolutely.
Be grateful for police, fire brigade, ambulance, hospitals, Medicare, Centrelink, and all the services provided by God’s servant, the human government. Pray for our leaders, but recognize the limits of their power. They can help keep us safe, but they cannot save us from ourselves. Or from themselves.
Nietzsche’s superman (Übermensch) has melted. Our leaders can’t save us, and we know it. In the last 11 years (2007 – 2018), satisfaction with democracy in Australia has fallen from 86% to 41%.
In this climate of disillusionment, the church desperately needs to recover Jesus’ core message: the kingdom of God.
Only divine government can save us. God’s government has been entrusted to the person he anointed to rule: Jesus, the non-violent human, whose confrontation with evil saw him humiliated and killed by the rebels. God raised him up out of death and gave him the kingship — complete authority in heaven and on earth. He must reign until everything and everyone who resists his kingship gives him allegiance.
When he has dealt with every enemy, earth will be a safe place again. Our salvation will be complete; his government will have saved the world. Every tear will be wiped away. Even death will be no more. The whole earth will be back where it always belonged — under God’s government (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
Earthly governments help save us in the short term, but they can’t save the world. The best they can do is provide a climate of peace where Jesus can be recognized in the community that acknowledges him.
Pray that our leaders give us peace, so people can discover the ruler who truly saves the world:
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (my translation)
1 So I urge you, as top priority, to make requests, petitions, appeals, and expressions of gratitude [to the one who truly governs]. Do this on behalf of all people, 2 and on behalf of kings and all those in powerful positions. Ask for a peaceful and well-ordered life, so we’re able to spend our lives reflecting his character and dignity.
3 That’s what’s good, the way of life that pleases God, our Saviour. 4 He wants all people to be saved [from the thrall of evil] and come to recognize the truth [of his sovereign rulership]. 5 For there is one God [the true sovereign], and one negotiator between God and humanity: Jesus the anointed, the human 6 who gave himself to emancipate us all.
Good news! God’s anointed doesn’t just save us from personal guilt. He saves us from everything that’s wrong with the world.