Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Christianity, Politics, and King Josiah's Reform

In ancient Israel, King Josiah initiated his famous religious reform as the collapse of Assyria assured freedom for Judah. Around this time, in 622 B.C.E., the temple law book was found. The finding of the law book gave direction to the King's reform. C. Hassell Bullock observes that the "early years of religious reform were marked by renewed hope for Judah, and the discovery of the scroll of the law in 622/21 reinforced and abetted the renewal."(1) This reform did a lot of good for Judah, but, as John Bright observes, it "produced no profound change in the national character."(2)

The prophet Jeremiah accepted his prophetic call the same year the temple law book was found. It is not clear what exactly Jeremiah thought about the reform, but the best explanation I have found is from Bright. He concludes that, though he did not participate in the reform, Jeremiah was in favor of it. However, Jeremiah did not formulate his opinion concerning the spiritual state of Israel merely on the fact that an official reform initiated by the king was taking place. Indeed, that would never satisfy Jeremiah. He would only be satisfied by “a sincere and heartfelt repentance, an inner change in the national character, a wholesale turning on the part of the people to loyal obedience to Yahweh—and this the reform did not produce.”(3)

King Josiah's reform was a good thing, but the people of Israel needed more than a legislative reform. They had sin written on their hearts (Jer. 17:1). No law of man could change that. The reform they needed could only be initiated by God. They needed Him to heal their incurable wound (30:17) and create in them new hearts with His law written inside (31:33).

So many Christians today want King Josiah's reform more than the reform of which the prophets spoke.
Our nation needs more than legislature imposing Christian moral values on all people. Our nation needs more than a law that says homosexuals cannot get married. Our nation needs more than a monument of the Ten Commandments in every school in the country.

The people in our nation need a thorough reform of the soul. They need God to change them from the inside out. They need the gospel. They need the love of Christ to be expressed to them in the deepest way.


Christians today are too busy fighting for moral laws, getting offended by what people do and say, and kicking & screaming every time people make a move away from Christianity.


Why do people move away from Christianity?
Intolerance? Narrow-mindedness? Hypocrisy? Rejection? A lack of love?
Surely none of them would leave because of an exposure to too much love!

Even if Christians could claim power over our nation and establish moral laws that line up with Christianity, would it even be a good idea?
Can you give me a situation in church history when it was a good idea?
How about Calvin's Geneva? Under Calvin, the city council decided that Servetus deserved to die for denying the doctrine of the trinity.
How about Zwingli? He and the city council sentenced thousands upon thousands of Anabaptists to death by drowning simply because they believed that infant baptism isn't biblical.
How about the Roman Catholic Church? Need I say more about it?
Maybe power isn't what Christianity should be fighting for.
Instead of asking how we can help put Christianity in power, maybe we should ask how we can love people.
We need to change this nation from the inside out, not from the outside in with laws establishing our Christian values.
In our country, we should look like Jesus dying on the cross to transform lives.
We should not look like a bunch of angry citizens fighting to "re-establish" a "Christian nation".

The Greek word used for ministry is διακονίᾳ (diakonia) and it means “waiting a table.” It also carries the meaning, “‘discharge of service’ in genuine love”—service being “all significant activity for the edification of the community."(4)
Christ is the bread of life (Jn. 6:35) and the Word of God (1:1). Ministry is the act of serving the Word of God to the world. We are to be waiters and waitresses serving the bread of life to our tables—our communities. How do we do that? LOVE  
The world will know we are Christians by our love! (John 13:35)

Notes:
(1) C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 192. 
(2) John Bright, Jeremiah (Garden City: Doubleday, 1965), XXVII
(3) Ibid., XCIV.
(4) Herman W. Beyer, “διακονία,” in Vol. 2 of TDNT, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1964), 87–88.

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