|This first installment in this article series discusses the meaning of government|
We encounter the institution of government as one of the earliest indications of God’s vision for His newly created domain – earth. Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion…” Even before God goes on to specify that man was created male and female (signaling the institution of marriage), God had already established the institution of government, because nothing holds except it is held together by a protocol – by government.
The material world is held together by laws; gravity, electromagnetism, etc. Nature obeys these laws automatically because it is insentient, and as such has no will with which to disobey them. Therefore the sun will rise tomorrow as it has risen since the first day it was created. But as soon as God introduces sentient beings with exercisable wills into the equation, it invariably became necessary to establish a protocol of a different nature by which laws relevant to sentient beings will be enforced. And so… “let them have dominion.”
Government is often construed in a limited sense as, a group of people given responsibility to manage the affairs of a larger group. In its essence however, government is the inevitable emergence of protocols for regulating the interaction of expressed wills. In short, where two or more are gathered, government is necessary and will emerge; whether it be in hard forms with written constitutions, or in simpler, and more innocuous forms like the almost imperceptible shift of the eye, and gait, as two pedestrians wordlessly negotiate who should move left, and who right, when they pass each other on a narrow sidewalk.
It is therefore not a matter of whether we will have government or not, that is not a question about which we need to have an opinion. As surely as night follows day, wherever two or more gather, government is, and will manifest. The question that we have been charged with the responsibility to answer is, what kind of government? For, to be granted dominion is to be charged with the responsibility of determining how a domain shall be governed.
Having then given us dominion, God grants us the widest possible latitude to get on with it, and only intervenes to prevent total catastrophe, and at those crossings where history intersects His predetermined plans. He lets Archelaus reign in his father’s stead in Judea for instance, so that Joseph on his way back from Egypt with Mary and Jesus, would be afraid to go there, and so, settle in Nazareth, so “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet that He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:22-23)
It is against this backdrop that we must view the altogether favourable tone with which God speaks of government (the institution) in the Bible. The tone with which God in the Bible speaks of government is as a good thing. He calls those charged with the responsibility His ministers (Romans 13:6); instructs us to pray for (1Timothy 2:1-2) and obey them (Romans 13:1). God does not only view government as good and necessary for the civic space, he also considers it indispensable for the ecclesia, and gifts some in the body with enhanced ability to govern (1 Corinthians 12:28).
Government then is God’s idea, set from the very foundation of the world; His framework for keeping His creation in good working order. It (government) is, because we (sentient beings) are. What sort it will be, is a matter about which tomes have been written, and wars fought all through history. It is the matter that moderates the swing of human society between barbarism and civilization.
And it is the matter to which we must turn our attention in the next essay in the series.