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How Should Christians Regard the Obamacare Ruling?

The Bible does not speak well of governments that wield great power over their people. There is no example in scripture of a benign or merciful one, a point that mirrors secular history. There has never been a government that remained benign or merciful when it had the kind of power America's has now been held to have.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites, when they fell under powerful and intrusive governments, were robbed, harassed, and kept in slavery. This merciless treatment drove them repeatedly to seek the Lord's mercy, in repentance and faith—and many American Christians today have a conviction that that is the task of our living generations. It was in the mid-1990s that I really began to see Christians everywhere I went invoking 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV):

. . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Some readers probably recall an even earlier resurgence of this penitential attitude. I believe it is appropriate and indispensable. But I don't think Christians are confined to working solely outside of our national politics. Our community relations with each other are extremely important; it matters to God and to our spiritual development how our hearts are oriented toward our fellows. The dynamics of community relations need not be brokered as comprehensively as they are today through the vehicle of "government"—but the current reality is that we are fixated on government, and Christians with a talent for government and politics need to be in the arena.

I find it interesting that some of the most evocative stories of God's provision in the Old Testament were centered on the access of His people to government. One is the story of Esther, which has much to teach us; another is the story of Daniel in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. But it is the even more ancient story of Joseph, the son of Jacob (Gen. 30-50), that resonates with me in this instance.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his envious brothers and ended up in a prison in Egypt, far from his father and mother. He was treated faithlessly more than once, but he became a counselor to the pharaoh and eventually rose to be second only to the pharaoh in holding government authority over the land. His most important act of state was leading the Egyptians to prepare prudently for a time of famine. He gained a wife and children, and eventually was reconciled to his brothers. He was reunited with his father and established him in wealth and comfort in Egypt before Jacob died.

God's purpose is not the political affairs of men, but our political affairs do matter to the working out of His purpose. He has often worked through His people in government positions, from kings and queens to presidents, prime ministers, and soldiers. He rarely waves a magic wand over our situations; He shows us, step by step, a way through our confusion, sorrow, and disappointment. He builds character in us—and He rewards it, in some cases with government authority or political influence; in others, with plenty and comfort in spite of famine.

It was after Joseph had had a prominent political role in Egypt for a number of years that he uttered to his brothers one of the most memorable lines in all scripture. I normally use the NIV translation, but for most people, the words of the NASB in Genesis 50:20 are more familiar: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Harmful developments, whether consciously intended as evil or not by the humans making the decisions, can be meant by God for good. And notice the important thing: Joseph was not consigned to remain in slavery or incarceration. Those conditions were not the "good" in Joseph's destiny. Rather, he emerged from them in triumph—and preserved many people alive. For such an outcome, we may pray and seek guidance today.

7/1/2012 4:00:00 AM