CHRIST AND THE STATE
The Relation of Christ to the State. -- He was an intense patriot. He loved His country. The names of His great countrymen, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua and David, were ever on His lips. He offered Himself as the national Messiah (Matthew 21:1-17), He was rejected (John 18:38-19:16; Luke 23:27-30; 13:34) and crucified (John 19:18), after He had been unjustly condemned to death both by the Jewish and Roman authorities. Upon the cross and over His head was placed the inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews."
What Jesus Taught About the State. -- The ancient idea of the state was that it was everything and the individual nothing. The first question was, "Is the state strong and prosperous?" The happiness or unhappiness of the individual was not considered. The purity or impurity of the life of the individual was of little consequence. The citizens existed for the state and to serve it and its ruler. This idea has lingered long and is not entirely yet extinct.
1. Jesus discovered the individual in the state. He taught that the soul of one man is worth more than the whole world (Matthew 16:26). Jesus put the individual first and the state second. This teaching was entirely new and revolutionary. Christ's principle was make the man, the unit, right and the state will be right. He insisted that the test of the state is the kind of individuals it produces (Matthew 7:16). "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). Formerly the state was thought of as an institution to minister to the comfort or happiness of the ruler or ruling class. Christ reversed this when He declared that rulers existed to serve the state. He said, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you let him be your servant. Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20: 25-28). He is the greatest in the state who renders the greatest service.
2. "He laid the foundation of a true state." In the time of Christ the common people had no choice in the selection or election of any officer of the state, of high or low position. Popular government in any form was unknown. If things went wrong people must endure them. When Jesus laid the responsibility upon the individual He made a basis for a popular government of some form. If things are not right now in a Christian state the people have the power of protest and change. It is for the people to send their representatives to the legislature, to congress, to parliament, etc., and to make and alter the laws when new laws or changes are needed.
3. He was a civil reformer from the inside. Jesus taught the necessity for the moral and spiritual regeneration of men before much could be done by the state in weeding out its evils. He saw plainly the folly of trying to transform the character of the state solely by the coercive power of law. "Satan tempted Him to take the short cut, -- seize power over men and then change the character in men (Matthew 4:8). To have become the kind of a king the Galileans proposed in John 6:15 would have frustrated His mission. He sought in society and politics what He sought in each man's life (Matthew 12:36; 23:26; Luke 6:45; John 10:10). Jesus was a true reformer."
4. Jesus taught obedience to the state and Himself strictly observed what He taught. He paid His taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). He declared that it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-21). When He was unlawfully arrested, on a trumped up charge, He made no resistance (John 18:1-9); this was not because He was not able to do so, for He could have summoned more than twelve legions of angels to aid Him (Matthew 26:53). Jesus thoroughly understood the corruption of His times, and the character of the rulers. He said of Herod, when it was told Him that he would kill Him, "Go ye and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils and do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected" (Luke 13:32,33). He obeyed the law for a purpose and the bringing in of a new order of things -- the abolition of force and the substitution for it of service in the kingdom of God. He suffered the Just for the unjust. He was a Martyr for His country. He died that it might live in a new order of men, under the banner of Christianity.
5. He taught the right principles upon which the universal state should be founded. Up to and at the time of Christ nations were separated from each other not only by natural boundaries of rivers, seas, plains, mountains, languages and racial differences but by religions. One people worshipped one set of gods, while another people bowed down to other gods. Jesus set forth the large ideal of uniting all races and all peoples in one great spiritual kingdom (John 18:37; Matthew 28:19,20; Acts 1:8; 17:24-27). It is only as different peoples and nations are united in a common religion that there can be a proper political federation or union (John 4:20-24; 10:16). Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God's kingdom, a reign of righteousness, justice and peace, might come, not to one people only, but to all peoples. This prayer, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven" (Matthew 6:10) means that the earth and no one restricted part of it is to be occupied by the kingdom of God. Jesus looked beyond the Jewish state and the Roman state and saw the beginning of a kingdom of God which would embrace all nations. It is this kingdom which is to permeate, purify and control the governments of the earth.
The Source of Authority is in God. "There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1; Daniel 2:20,21; 4:32; Psalm 2). God is sovereign. He is the final basis of all authority. "Government has authority delegated to do its duties, but it has no inherent authority to do anything. God has inherent powers; institutions have that which is conferred upon them by law. Each one who exercises authority must derive it directly or indirectly from God" (Matthew 18:18; Daniel 7:13,14; Isaiah 9:6,7; Luke 10:22; John 3:35). This is one of the fundamental principles of the Christian state. This authority may be delegated to men and may be used rightly or it may be abused.
In the Old and New Testaments it is distinctly taught that all nations -- Christian and unchristian -- are directly accountable to God.
The Sanction of Authority is in the righteousness and justice of God. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right" (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 58:11; 67:7; 97:6; 9:8; 50:6; Proverbs 16:11,12; Romans 3:21,22)? The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the perfect state wherein righteousness and justice should rule. Sovereignty over a state may be initiated by force but it can never be made the permanent basis on which sovereignty rests. "States have been defrauded of their birthright with scarcely the grace of a contract for a mess of pottage, but the possession may be kept only by a return to justice. The strongest is not strong enough to be always master, unless he transform his strength into right and obedience to duty."
Reign of Law. -- The philosopher, the natural scientist and the Christian theologian all believe that we live in a universe governed by law. Certain natural scientists may believe that the law is impersonal in its origin, but the Christian theologian believes that the origin of law, and the carrying it out, is "the expression of the will of a personal God."
Law has been defined, as the necessary relations which pertain to the nature of things. When men come to associate themselves in a state they find it necessary to define and formally set forth their relations by certain enactments for the general good, which are called laws. But these laws naturally will be the expression of, and will rise no higher than, the social conscience of the people.
The revealed will of God in regard to men and their political relations to each other, as given in the Scriptures, presents high ideals, which, if realized, go to make the perfect state (Micah 6:8). The Old Testament prophets were continually presenting these divine ideals of the state to the people of Israel and urging them to accept them. Christ had much to say about the higher political relations of men. Paul in his epistles also had much to say upon this topic. Moses urged not only the keeping of the provisions of the ceremonial, but also the moral and civil laws (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Exodus 25:40; Joshua 1:7; Exodus 13:9; Nehemiah 9:13; Psalm 1:2; Isaiah 1:10-17; Jeremiah 8:7,8; Daniel 9:10,11; Matthew 5:17; 22:36-40; Hebrews 8:10; Titus 3:1,2; Ezra 7:25).
God is the Lord of all nations and they are to be judged according to His law (Psalm 2; 47:2,3; Malachi 1:14; Psalm 67:4; Matthew 28:19; 25:32; Romans 16:26).
The End of the Law is to make a holy nation, wherein righteousness shall reign. The effort of the Mosaic law was to make Israel a "holy nation." Even sanitary and dietary laws were not laid down as such but were made the distinctive marks of the consecrated life of a chosen people; details of ritual were prescribed to express the sense of the holiness of God in whose service they were exercised (Exodus 19:6). "And ye shall be holy unto Me; for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be Mine" (Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6; 26:19; 28:9; Isaiah 62:12; 1 Corinthians 3:17).
The effort of Christianity, under the leadership of Christ, is not only to perfect the church, but also the state. In so far as the principles of Christianity prevail amongst the people they reflect themselves in the laws of the state. In a community which is thoroughly Christian it is impossible for certain evil institutions to maintain themselves.
The Duty of the Christian Citizen is to recognize the state, to give it loyal support and obedience and to seek to make its law conform to the law ordained by God. No man ought to hold himself aloof from the political interests of his community or country. In many towns and cities where Christian public sentiment has secured the passage of excellent laws for the suppression of certain evils, the evils flourish in spite of the good laws because they are not strongly supported by that sentiment which secured their passage.
Never was there a time when the highest type of Christian citizenship, setting forth the ideals of Christ, was more needed than at the present day. The outlook for any true national greatness must necessarily be from an ethical and Christian standpoint, bringing to the front the principles of love, loyalty, service and sacrifice.
FUNCTIONS AND PURPOSE
Functions. -- The Christian state is continually widening its sphere of care and action over and for the individual. It not only assumes the protection of life and property, but provides schools, from the primary grade to great universities; it cares for the sick and mentally deficient; it provides food, clothing and shelter for the destitute poor, it supervises the morals of the people, and enforces sanitary regulations. The more thoroughly Christian the state the more it seeks the betterment of the individual. The less Christian the state the less it cares for the good of the individual and the more it seeks to oppress and to use him as its slave.
Purpose -- This is the realization of the kingdom of God on earth. The Christian is working for a state, where the principles of justice and brotherly love shall prevail.
Christ and the state; what was His relation to the state? What did He teach about the state? What did Jesus teach about the individual and his relation to the state? In what way did He lay the foundation of the true state? In what respect was He a civil reformer? What did Jesus teach about obedience to the state? What did He teach about the universal state and the principles upon which it should be founded? What is the source of authority for the state? Give the sanction of its authority. What can be said of the law of the state, the reign of law, definition, end of the law and the duty of the Christian citizen? Give the functions and purpose of the Christian state.