The sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia continues to grab national headlines. He has left rather large shoes to fill for whoever will be appointed, and the brilliance of the man is recognized by both conservatives and liberals alike. In a sense, he cannot be replaced, but his vacant seat is now leaving both parties scrambling in an effort to nominate a successor. The fact that Justice Scalia was among the few true conservatives on the Court who did not view the Constitution as a “living document,” has particularly left many conservatives deeply concerned as to the future of our America.
Should we as Christians be concerned?
You should be very concerned about laws that are passed in any nation that promote grotesque evils such as homosexuality or abortion. There is no question about that.
For that reason, in America, your concern should motivate you to at least responses that will hopefully provide a biblical guide for you as you navigate through much of the recent media hype.
1. You should be motivated to vote. I think you’d be foolish not to. Don’t be naive though, as John Chester noted earlier this week, we should not be disillusioned about national politics. Nevertheless, we do not espouse passivity either. It is the role of the government to restrain evil, and unfortunately, that is something neither party seems very interested in doing anymore.1 So, voting has become harder to stomach, since in most circumstances, we are left to vote for whomever promotes evil less.
I don’t buy the “so and so is not a Christian,” or “such and such a candidate is not a ‘true’ conservative,” so I won’t vote for them. Neither do I buy the argument, “God is sovereign over our government,” or “the people of God are not social reformers.”2
You may have heard some of those arguments from some before. And, while true, it is still derelict to have the unique opportunity to live in a republic and have the chance to influence who, albeit a small influence, governs our nation. What’s more, you have the unique opportunity to do it in such a way that is God-honoring, since you can promote change while still submitting to and honoring our governing authorities. That is a blessing, and I think responsible Christians should capitalize on that blessing. I would even go so far as to say it is what God expects, given that the Scriptures presume believers actively influence legislation that restrains evil, to one degree or another, since it will be after the Rapture of the church that all moral restraint is gone from the world. It will be when the church is gone that the world curtails into the worst forms of injustice.
2. You should be motivated to pray. But even more than being concerned such that it would motivate you to vote, you should be concerned such that you are motivated to pray more fervently for our national leaders. Not only that, because we have been commanded to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4), this would also mean that you should also be motivated to repent if you have not been faithful to pray for them. The reality that God has ordained to work through the prayers of men is an even greater blessing than the blessing to vote! You had better capitalize on that blessing.
God is sovereign to appoint leaders, and in our country, He has ordained that to happen in a Republic where its citizens vote. But He has also ordained His sovereignty to happen in conjunction with the prayers of His people. Do you know each Justice on the Supreme Court by name? Did you even know Scalia’s name before his death? If not, how dedicated are you really to pray for them?3
I find it ironic that we have no problem with this paradox when it comes to evangelism. We believe God is sovereign to call and to save those whom He’s chosen. But that in no way encourages us to be passive in our evangelism. In no way do we rationalize, “I will not be proactive to share the Gospel so God can call whom He wishes.” Neither do we rationalize, “I will not pray for the lost because God has already chosen whomever He’s chosen.” Somehow though, we allow that paradox to interfere with our approach to politics. So we rationalize why we don’t vote, and we rationalize why we don’t pray. You should be doing both.
Having said that though, many have responded to Justice Scalia’s death with unbiblical concern, such that leads to despair, anxiousness, worry, fear, or even depression.
3. You should be motivated to hope in God. Here is where you must be reminded, and encouraged, that our hope is not in this world. So don’t be concerned about worldly things. Don’t let anything in this world distract you from your mission to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.
If you are worried, ask yourself why. Am I worried about what this could mean for me? Or for my job? Or my house? Will I get sued because of my convictions? What about my church? What about my children? “I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about them.” Those are all examples of sinful worry and indicative of a distrust in the sovereignty of God.
So what happens if we get the worst, most liberal, anti-God Supreme Court Justice? And what happens if tomorrow Clarence Thomas (who has been even more conservative than Scalia) retires or passes away, and he too is replaced with a liberal?
You must recognize God’s sovereignty.
I remember something Dr. Alex Montoya said in one of my seminary classes in the context of the church – the church will get the pastor it deserves. That’s true of our leaders of government as well. We will get the leaders we deserve. Likewise, Paul Washer said of Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, “He is the judgment of God upon them because they want exactly what he wants, and it is not God.” Again, the same is true of our government.
But you must not merely recognize God’s sovereignty. You must submit to it.
Submitting to God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that we consent because we know that somehow, everything will turn out okay in this world. Everything works together for good (Rom. 8:28), but the key phrase is “for those who love God.” That can only be said because of our hope in our heavenly reward, not because God will work out everything in this life for our physical or financial betterment. After all, God’s sovereign plan is always good, but it isn’t always easy because good can mean wrath.
God was sovereign over Rome in the first century, even during Nero’s persecution. Nero harpooned Christians and used them as torches to light up his gardens at night. He dressed their children in sheepskin and let wolves tear them to pieces in the arena for entertainment. Yet God was sovereign over that, and God is good.
It’s been said that Nicholas Ridley prayed while being led to the stake to be burned for his faith that if it be God’s will, He should spare him the pain of the flames that would consume him. The winds were blowing that day, and when the fire was lit, another reformer, Hugh Latimer, who was at Ridley’s back, died almost instantly. But for Wycliffe, because the flames were blowing away form him, slowly burned for hours before finally expiring. It’s been recorded that as the fire was lit, he began singing hymns, but his singing slowly turned to screams, “Lord have mercy on me,” and, “I cannot burn!” Yet God was sovereign over that, and God is good.
I remember a seminary friend of mine, a few years back, after seeing God’s hand of judgment on our country as He continually gives us over to our desires, pulled his teenage son aside and told him, “Son, there will come a day when preaching against abortion and homosexuality will be illegal, and I will be given no choice but to preach the Word of God even if it means imprisonment. Son, you must be prepared for that day. Trust in the sovereignty of God, and know that He is good.” Soon the day will come when I will tell my sons the same, and they too must grow to be faithful men of God.
After all, “those who follow Christ will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12-13), and if we wish to follow Christ, we must be willing to suffer (Mk. 8:34-38), lest we resist the decree of God and become like Satan (cf. Mk. 8:31-33).
But our suffering does not defer our hope.
Let us live in the constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and virtue will proceed from Him to repair all our decays, to renew a right spirit within us, and to cause us to abound in all duties of obedience. It will fix the soul unto that object which is suited to give it delight, complacency, and satisfaction. When the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and His glory, when the soul thereon cleaves unto him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance unto, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition. And nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls hereunto as a constant view of Christ and His glory.
~ John Owen
- At least, as it relates to the many evils in our own country. There is a lot of talk about those evils, but compromise is the rule of the day and as a result, no real solutions are offered to end evil. ↩
- While I agree that it is not the responsibility of the church to promote social reform, it is the responsibility of individual Christians and citizens to do good wherever the opportunity presents itself (Gal. 6:10). For more on this, I’ll refer you to this series by Jesse Johnson. ↩
- I am extremely suspect if you consistently pray for the highest judicial court of our land, you would be content to do so with such vague ambiguity that you are not even motivated to learn their names. I am not saying that we should know every slant of every Justice sitting on the court, but it’s pretty difficult to argue that you pray specifically for them without knowing their names. Maybe you do, and that’s good. “Father, I ask that you give wisdom, discernment, and salvation to those sitting on our Supreme Court, that Your name would be magnified and honored,” is an excellent prayer. But if you pray that exact same prayer every day, my bet is that it’d eventually become as callous as “Thank you for this food,” three times a day. ↩