As Christians we have been taught to examine ourselves according to the Ten Commandments. Sunday morning is an opportunity to do just this. Whether on the drive to church, or in the pew before worship begins, as we consider our transgressions against the commandments in the light of God’s law, we prepare our hearts to confess our sins. We also serve to highlight our need for forgiveness. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1) We are glad to go to the place where we find rest, where our transgressions against God’s law find healing in the person of God’s Son.
One of the commandments that we review weekly is the fourth commandment. It may seem that the fourth commandment is only for children. “What does the commandment about honoring our father and mother have to do with us?” we might think. Maybe we even believe that we commit no sin against this commandment from week to week. While our relationship to our biological father and mother, no doubt, has changed, we are taught in the Small Catechism that the fourth commandment also includes our duties as citizens to the fathers and mothers of our country. Considering this we may ask ourselves the following questions:
It is easy to stick our head in the sand. Government is corrupt, and it seems pointless to get involved. Our actions will do little good. It seems better to isolate ourselves from society. And yet, what if we took that same attitude to the rest of the areas in our life? What if the pastor said, “My preaching doesn’t do any good so I will quit.” Or what if parents said, “My children don’t listen so I will stop parenting.”? Or what if the policeman said, “No one follows the rules and so it’s no use, I give up!” God’s command, however, is not to be worried about the results, but only to do our duty. The heart of our responsibility is to love, serve, and act for the benefit of our neighbor no matter what the outcome is. A lack of action on my part may mean that there is a lack of love in my heart for others and that I am only concerned about myself.
But on the other hand we can also get too worked up over the political process. We can fret and worry when things don’t go our way or when the people we like aren’t in leadership. We can forget that the Lord is in control and that He sets up rulers and deposes them. He has good plans for us even in evil rulers, of which we are often unaware. The Lord knows best, and each ruler that is elected has been placed there by Him. To rebel against their authority is to rebel against God. We can also wrongly go down the road of trying to build a heaven on earth. We can expect from the government what only the Church can bring and give. We may want to force people to change through the will of law rather than changing their hearts through the Word of the Gospel. Even if the government and everyone over us was perfect, the church would be no better or worse off. We place our trust in the Lord and not in rulers. Even when evil occurs through our leaders we can live understanding that the Lord sees, knows, has a plan and a purpose in it all, and in the end will bring all things to pass.
Lutherans have always taken a middle ground when it comes to politics. In my readings through the Book of Concord I recently came across some passages about politics. You might not expect to find commentary about political issues in the major theological work of the Lutheran church, and yet there were many errors regarding government that came about during the Reformation. Some Protestant groups advocated that it was a sin for a Christian to serve in a civic office or as a soldier, that it was wrong to ask for help from the government, or that government was not a godly estate. Later on groups like the Amish developed which, on the one extreme, removed themselves from life under the government, or, on the other extreme, groups like Pat Robertson or the Moral Majority sought to blur the distinction between church and state and bring about religious views through the political process. The Lutheran Church has always stood on the middle ground that the Scriptures present. First, while we vote and understand that the Lord uses our vote for His good, nonetheless, we don’t put our trust in our vote, but in the Lord who alone can save us. Second, government is God-ordained yet while princes fail us, we trust in the Prince who orders and rules all things for our good and benefit, even in and through evil things.
Jesus made the good confession before Pontius Pilate. Though He was wrongfully tried and sentenced to death He submitted Himself to the ruling authorities and entrusted Himself to the Lord. He came to this world even when there was social upheaval, unjust rulers, and an unbelieving society. The Father preserved Him, strengthened Him, raised Him up, and saw Him through, just as He will to do to us.
As citizens of this country our Lord has given us a voice and a vote this week, Tuesday, November 2. We exercise our influence in faith to God and in service to our neighbor.
See you at the polls.