Summary: To borrow from Andy Stanley, "It’s not about ’what,’ it’s all about ’who.’
God, Government and You
Rev. Brian Bill
After an exceptionally long and boring sermon, the congregation filed out of the church not saying a word to the pastor. After a while a man came up to him and said, “Pastor, that sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!” The pastor was pretty happy about that because no one had ever said anything like that before. Fishing for some more compliments, the pastor asked him how his sermon reminded him of the peace and love of God. “Well,” said the parishioner, “it reminded me of the peace of God because it passed all human understanding and it reminded me of the love of God because it endured forever!”
I was going to make a resolution to preach shorter messages but I knew I’d break it today. I will do my best however, to make the sermons understandable and applicable.
How many of you are ‘rule-keepers’? When you see a rule do you try to do everything possible to not break it?
How many of you are ‘rule-breakers’? When you’re faced with a rule, do you find yourself wanting to inwardly disregard it or outwardly disobey it? I was accused of this on Friday night by my family when we were playing a card game. They claim I was cheating.
Now for all you ‘rule-keepers,’ before you start feeling smug about all the rules you keep, don’t most of us pick and choose which ones we’re going to follow? Driving 55, well that’s just too slow. The speed limit should be 65 or if you’re Pastor Dick driving to Biloxi, it should be 85. We tend to evaluate rules according to what we think should be right.
On their December 30th show, Nightline dedicated the whole half-hour to the topic: “2009: The Year of Behaving Badly.” Dubbed the “Red Carpet of Rogues and Wrong-doing,” they invited people to vote for the worst of the worst in several categories – celebrities, politicians, and financiers. Our own ex-governor not only won in the politician department, he was voted the biggest bad guy of them all.
Andy Stanley makes the point that most individuals chafe under authority. Somewhere along the way in our culture we’ve learned to quickly evaluate what we’re expected to do and then we decide whether or not we want to do it. Whether it’s parents or a boss or a teacher or a coach or government or God, if I disagree with the ‘what’ then I can disregard what it is I’m being told to do. Stanley writes: “And I don’t feel guilty. I don’t go to bed at night and confess it as sin…because I’ve evaluated it and decided that it’s just a stupid rule.”
As we begin 2010, I want to propose that Scripture presents a far different paradigm. If you not only want a new year but more importantly, a new you, then remember this: It’s not about ‘what,’ it’s all about ‘who.’
As we come to chapter 13 in our continuing series in the Book of Romans, I’m guessing that in our politically-charged culture, there is going to be some pretty major push back this morning as we tackle this topic: “God, Government and You.” While many would say that God and government don’t mix very well, I want us to see that government can only be understood to the degree to which we understand God. And actually, according to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:21, we owe an allegiance to both God and to government: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
In an effort to be as understandable as possible, I want to make some preliminary comments.
1. Our topic for today is what comes next in our verse-by-verse study of Romans. I’m not sure I would have picked “What God Says about Government” if it weren’t for our expositional approach to preaching. That’s one of the clear advantages to studying a book of the Bible – we’re forced to tackle topics that we might otherwise avoid because they make us uncomfortable. One person told me this week that after seeing the sermon title, she thought about not coming because she hates government and politicians. My guess is that she’s not alone.
2. My intention is not to lift up one political party or denigrate another. If you’re looking for a political gun fight, you can put your weapons back in your holsters. I recognize that this topic can be emotionally explosive and so I want to make an appeal for us to be open to what the Bible has to say.
3. I’m no political expert. I did major in political science in college (one of the many majors I experimented with) but since most of my classes were taught by Madison Marxists, I quickly lost interest. On top of that, my grades were in the gutter (that’s the real reason). While I do follow politics with great interest, my understanding is pretty basic. Having said that, as a Christ-follower, there are moral issues that I unashamedly speak out on – two that come to mind are the sanctity of human life, including the protection of the preborn and the preservation of marriage as one man and one woman in a life-long covenant commitment.