Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: fathers (06/06/05)
TITLE: Disobedience in the Bedrock
By Richard Soule
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As we approach another Independence Day, our thoughts may be drawn to the fathers of our country and particularly the 52 signers of the Declaration of Independence. These men displayed courage in the face of tyranny and risked their own lives to bring self-government to the 13 British colonies. To their credit, they acknowledged God several times in the Declaration. Unfortunately, this document that serves as the hallowed bedrock of our nation was conceived and executed in direct defiance of God’s commands.
Scripture teaches that “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:1-2, NASB).
King George III, who they defied in authoring and signing the Declaration, was established by God. Yes, he was apparently a tyrant, but certainly no more so than Emperor Nero, who was in power when Paul wrote to the church in Rome and who would later order grotesque tortures on innocent Christians. The atrocities perpetrated by Nero or George III, however, are not relevant for the believer who recognizes God’s authority and trusts Him to “cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Apparently, the signers of the Declaration either did not know or chose to ignore God’s command, having more faith in their own actions than God’s wisdom. Adding to this insult, they cited “unalienable rights” (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), supposedly endowed by God, although there is no biblical basis for such a claim. Furthermore, a significant portion of their grievances against the King surrounded taxation, ignoring both Paul (Romans 13:7) and Jesus. In implicitly objecting to Jesus’ call to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” they simultaneously failed to render “to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). They considered their own grievances, as genuine as these may have been, more important than God’s authority.
Our nation was therefore born in disobedience to God, but as is His extraordinary wont, He has used that disobedience for good and blessed America in many ways. Despite our shortcomings, there is still no more just and charitable nation in the world. One has to wonder, however, how much more God would have been glorified had the fathers of our nation instead issued a Declaration of Dependence, acknowledging their dependence of God and calling for the citizens of the American colonies to pray for King George and the future of America, as well as reminding the Christians among them of the responsibilities to honor the king, pay their taxes without complaint, and obey the laws of the government.
In the Declaration of Independence, the signers appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of (their) intentions.” Since I am grateful to live in the United States and acknowledge my debt to our forefathers, I pray that God was merciful to them and commuted the sentence of condemnation they brought upon themselves.
We, however, can take no solace in such a hope when it comes to our responsibilities. The Declaration represents the kind of thing that happens when generally good people apply human logic and sensibilities rather than seeking divine counsel in the Word. We too often ascribe to God attributes or attitudes we think He ought to have and then use our self-constructions to justify doing precisely what we want to do. This is not the role of a servant of God and it behooves us to understand what God really says before acting. When we are disobedient, God may well work it for good, but we also play into the hands of his arch-enemy. In America, we too often arrogantly claim God is on our side when we ought to be making sure we’re on God’s side.
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