Government: Not Evil, but Fallen

I was just looking at reports of today’s rally on the west lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. One attendee was quoted as saying that it now seems the government has become evil.

I’m glad to see eyes opening to the possibility of evil, even in our own country. Yes, it can happen here. At the same time, I caution anyone who cares to read this against thinking that any government is evil in a civil sense. Governments are gifts from God, to benefit the lives of their citizens in this fallen world. The American system of government is no exception, and neither is the current (or any prior) slate of elected officials.

Government can become twisted in service to evil, until it seems to be inextricably bound to it. Certain 20th Century examples spring to mind, and perhaps present-day Persia. Yet even there, the government as such has certain divinely-assigned responsibilities, which make it a blessing to its people, and even to neighboring nations.

While a government is not intrinsically evil, it is certainly part of this fallen world. That means that it can make mistakes, like the rest of us. The difference is that when I make a mistake, it affects fewer people. I just finished reading a history of the Great Depression called The Forgotten Man, by Amity Schlaes. The disregard of F.D.R. and many of his advisors for the tremendous negative influence of government mistakes is astounding. That disregard was probably induced by the politics of the crisis, but I would rather have a President willing to be denied reelection as the cost of doing the smallest possible harm to others. The governing philosophy of Coolidge might have helped Americans much more, though they would have missed the hollow comforts in F.D.R.’s fireside chats.

Please do not think that government is evil, even when it has done evil. In a spiritual sense, it is no more evil than you or I am evil. (We are all condemned sinners in a world destined for destruction.) Christians who have the forgiveness of sins can appreciate that Christ’s redemption has also provided us a sanctified use of the government. Christians can serve as elected or appointed officials, as bureaucratic employees or soldiers. Whether we do or not, we must also hold our fallen government accountable, so that it does less harm, and promotes the only kind of justice for which God has made it responsible. That’s not “social justice” or “media justice” (which are really different kinds of injustice), but the punishment and suppression of evils that threaten the lives and property of its citizens.

Christians can also take comfort that we are citizens of a better and perfect government. It’s a monarchy, but only subjects of this King are ever truly free. Thanks to the blood and death of our risen Lord, we will enjoy this freedom for eternity. All earthly governments will go the way of Rome, into mere history. Our Lord and King lives forever.

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