Month 4:29, Week 4:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5936:118 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 18 July 2012
Not of This World
Our Proper Relationship to the State
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el!
"'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Judeans; but now My kingdom is not from here.' Pilate therefore said to Him, 'Are You a king then?' Yah'shua (Jesus) answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the emet (truth). Everyone who is of the emet (truth) hears My voice'" (John 18:36-38, NKJV).
My message today is both for myself as well as for those in attendance and who are reading these sermons online. Early this morning Yahweh told me to re-evaluate my involvement in politics in the light of His Davar (Word) and reminded me both of today's passage, in which Yah'shua (Jesus) said that He has no connections whatsoever to the world system, and also of the fact that it is a very difficult thing indeed to remain separated (set-apart, holy) to Him when you get involved in things that are steered by the world system. It is so easy to get involved in the 'good cop' cause in the battle against the 'bad cops' that you forget that the 'good cops' are steered by the world system too as they pursue the method of false dichotomies in getting control. If you are not very careful you can come under the system's control and compromise your separatedness to Yahweh. That is what I am directed to speak to you about today.
The other day I watched a movie which illustrates the point I am trying to convey. Most movies don't grip me but this one definitely did as it struck several chords deep within me. Starring Russel Crowe and Elizabrth Banks, The Last Three Days is the story of a woman called Laura who is arrested for murdering her boss with whom she had had an argument. Though not guilty of the crime, she is arrested and sent to prison for life because the evidence, by a cruel twist of fate, is stacked heavily against her. After hopelessly fighting the legal system for three years, her husband, John, finally breaks under the strain of being separated from his wife and decides that since he isn't going to get justice from the system that he must take the matter into his own hands. And so he plans and executes a brilliant and daring breakout, reunites his son with his mother, and escapes abroad with them borth. I found myself cheering him all the way and exulted because a kind of justice was eventually done and a family which never should have been separated was united, albeit in another country and forever separated from family and friends.
Unfortunately, in order to carry out his plan, John had to break the law numerous times, but in a way that leaves you sympathetic nonetheless. Firstly, he has to get false passports for his family and has to deal with the criminal underworld. In his first attempt he is swindled, robbed and badly beaten up by the crook paid to help him. Since this is all the money he has, he trails the man who swindled him to a house where they are manufacturing illegal substances. Pulling a gun he demands his money back and ends up killing two of the drug dealers who attempted to stop and kill him. The 'bonus' is a very large sum of money which he takes off the crooks which is enough to finance the rest of his breakout plan and secure his family abroad.
He finally breaks his wife out after holding police at gunpoint. Luckily nobody is hurt - had they been wounded or killed then the story would have ended with him losing all credibility. But all went well, in spite of some near misses. By the time the movie was over, I felt jubilant. Justice, albeit by a vary dubious and dangerous route indeed, had been done.
I forgot the movie until Yahweh showed me some things this morning in a vision and in a dream, the upshot of which was a sobering conclusion, namely, that our strong sense of justice can unfortunately lead us to make allies with the wrong forces. In the Second World War, in order to defeat a tyrant, Hitler, the Western Allies had to make an alliance with another tyrant, Stalin, in order to secure 'justice' for Hitler's victims. However the result of the war was far from just, for many reasons, the main one being the enslavement of Eastern Europe under murderous communist régimes for over 40 years. In analysing the morality of the Second World War we tend to blur the moral edges and make things black-and-white - the Good Allies vs. the Evil Axis. But the Allies themselves were not themselves angels, and I speak principally of the Soviets but not exclusively them. The world is never black-and-white but usually lighter shades of grey against darker ones.
As regenerated believers we belong to a Kingdom that has nothing whatsoever to do with this world system. Yah'shua (Jesus) made that plain in His words to Pilate when He declared, "My kingdom is not of this world" and then added:
The way that we, as believers, are to interact with the world system has resulted in huge divisions. There are the absolute pacificsts who believe that we should absolutely never resist the system no matter what it does to us. Then there are those who, using the precedent set in Torah, teach that we have the right to take up arms to defend the right. There's even a whole school of thought called 'Liberation Theology' which advocates joining in armed struggle to set free oppressed peoples under the thral of right-wing dictators. Typically, though, these people allied themselves with communists, whose record of tyranny is well known. Those Christians advocating this kind of engagement are usually Catholics who, curiously enough, have supported both right- and left-wing dictatorships historically.
"If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Judeans; but now My kingdom is not from here."
When to came to sheltering Jews in the last world war, the nazis appealed to Paul's statement in the New Testament saying that we should obey their law, thus creating a dilemma:
Understanding Paul's words here means we have to know what the context was, and it was, specifically, rule under the Roman Empire. Clearly Paul understood the civil authorities were of benefit to maintain law and order and that this was preferable to anarchy. In those days the laws were few and simple. Thieves and murderers were dealt with (albeit sometimes harshly) for the protection of the people. By and large, except under certain later emperors, there was freedom of religion provided citizens and subjects paid their taxes. And here Paul is emphatic and goes on to qualify what he meant:
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from Elohim (God), and the authorities that exist are appointed by Elohim (God). Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of Elohim (God), and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is Elohim's (God's) minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is Elohim's (God's) minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake" (Rom.13:1-5, NKJV).
It doesn't matter that we are unjustly taxed, we are still to pay them, though how far this can be allowed to go is another question. I think of the case of Swedish author Selma Lageröf who was once expected to pay 102% taxes to the state! I think of a political activist in Britain who was recently arrested (and imprisoned without trial) for withholding (as opposed refusing to pay) his Council taxes in protest of the UK's violation of its own Common Law. That's a really hard one to ajudicate as Britain (like America) has two sets of laws that are contradictory and mutually exclusive: common law vs. statutory law, the latter being technically illegal. A similar situation pertains in Germany where an illegal Allied-imposed law (called the Grundgesetz) was imposed on top of the Law and Constitution of the Weimar Republic. So you see, things can get a bit complicated. And then here in the European Union we have EU law superimposed on top of national law and then overarching all of that are United Nations conventions which sometimes contradict the other two. And in the United States you have Obama introducing new laws which contradict the American Constitution. It was a lot simpler in Paul's day!
"For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are Elohim's (God's) ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour" (Rom.13:6-7, NKJV).
In my current battle over homeschooling rights in Sweden, this is the kind of dilemma we face because the new Swedish law contradicts EU and UN laws and conventions, made even harder by the fact that the EU has said that national governments can interpret certain laws however they want. What a recipe for anarchy and injustice! We find ourselves governed by lawless governments who disregard their own laws. And the thing is, it has always been that way in human history, though to differing degrees. Finally, we have our corporate overlords and banksters who are laws unto themselves, disregarding all governmentrs and state laws when it suits them because of the power their great wealth (obtained mostly by fraud) gives them.
So where is a Christian or Messianic supposed to draw the line? We don't live in a Theocracy, corrupt or righteous, but in secular nations. We have to set the statements made by Yah'shua (Jesus), Paul and Peter side by decide and decide how to interpret our situation. One thing is very clear from the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) and it's that armed insurrection against a government is forbidden. Yah'shua (Jesus) makes that very clear many times, countering the revolutionary zeal of the Zealots, preventing Peter from armed resistance against the guards that arrested him (even healing Malchus whose ear Peter had cut off in his over-zealouslness to protect the Master) and giving instruction that when the qodeshim (saints) were persecuted in one town to move to another. In the case of most homeschoolers in Sweden, they have fled abroad from Swedish government tyranny to such countries as Finland and in one case forming a community of exiles there.
Thus we know that revolutionary violence to overthrow a government and refusal to pay taxes are not an option for believers. Peter made it plain that when the lines are drawn somethimes we must resort to civil disobedience when he said:
In the Soviet Union, when unregistered Baptists refused to register with the state or desist from baptising or holding meetings, they followed Peter's clear admonition. I used to support a German organisation called Friedenstimme when I was younger helping these people so I know what they went through. Similar choices have to be made by believers in unregistered housechurches in countries like Red China today who are experiencing another wave of persecution even as I write this. Even in countries where traditionally there has always been liberty, such as the USA and Britain, government is now turning on Christians and forbidding them, for example, to hold meetings in their own homes or to witness outdoors in public places.
"We ought to obey Elohim (God) rather than men" (Acts 5:29, NKJV).
In order to deal with such dilemmas, as all believers must at some point, and more so as this world descends into darkness, it soon becomes obvious that such big decisions as to whether to yield to the government when it is unrighteous, free or rests definitely requires constant revelation. We can't do whatever we want especially when we have responsibility to take care of our families. And we certainly can't just go and do what the husband in the movie, The Last Three Days, did.
We all of us have a deep-seated sense of justice. Those who are not tyrants want justice but the trouble is there is a right and a wrong way to go about getting it. I received a letter the other day from a distraught lady in Ireland who wanted certain social workers exceeding their authority to be forcibly sterilised because she believes they have a genetic condition to be predisposed toward hurting people. Obviously this is absurd and we cannot allow ourselves to swept away by the distress of others who have been grievously wronged when they react in an anti-Scriptural way. As a Swedish homeschooler once said to me, we must remember that those who abuse power need help too. We are not out to destroy the opposition but to reform, heal and convert it. And if they will not, then we must simply hand them over to Yahweh to be dealt with in His own time and way. Besides, Scripture makes is very plain that we will not, for the most part, get justice in this world, but the next. Thus we are to allow Yahweh to take vengeance or execute perfect justice in His own time and way, whether in this world or the next, or both.
At the same time, this does not mean that we should be passive but we are to resist in a righteous way. This usually requires much patience and fortitude which Yahweh will supply in abundant measure to those who wuill trust and submit to Him. And our first level of resistance must always be prayer - prayer against the Enemy and prayer directed toward Yahweh giving us our marching orders. Amen.