Christ Over Politics
With the federal election commencing this Saturday, I am reminded of a sermon that I preached from Esther when I first arrived, especially from Esther 3:10.
“So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.”
The King would stamp his ring into wax on royal decrees, as a sign that the document bore the identity and authority of the king. In Esther 3:10, the king handed one of his symbols of power to Haman, a man who was plotting genocide against the Jews.
There is a point of application here for us. In a democratic society, it is the people, not the king, who hold the ‘signet ring’ of power. When we go to vote, we assign authority to others to exercise power on our behalf.
If we believe that Christ is Lord over all, it would be inappropriate for us to vote in such a way that perhaps benefits our bank account, yet overlooks a concern for a Christian ethic. Should we vote with disregard for a Christian ethic, then we shouldn’t be surprised when the government passes laws that are contrary to a Christian worldview.
In our context, we are not dealing with the genocide of Jews, but we are dealing with issues such as the abortion of infants along with confusion caused by the discarding of gender categories.
We can’t hand over the ‘signet ring’ of power, as King Ahasureus did, and then wash our hands clean as we sit down to drink.
The early Baptists were uncompromising in advocating that the state exercise power only in accordance with God’s law, lest they crossover into the realm that belongs to God. Roger Williams writing in 1652, penned the following words in his work, “The Bloody Tenent Yet more Bloody,”
"Hence the wisdome of God, in that 13 Rom. I say, there it pleaseth God expresly to reckon up the particulars of the second table, chalking out (as it were) by his own finger, the civil sphere or circle, in which the civil Magistrate ought to act and execute his civil power and Authority."
“The second Table” is a common phrase found in Baptist writings regarding conscience and the role of the state. It referred to the last six commands of the law of Moses (Ex. 20:12-17. Namely, the State was to maintain law and order by punishing evil.
Isaac Backus, a man influenced by Roger Williams, described the consequences of the magistrate moving outside of this sphere in a tract titled, “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, against the Oppressions of the Present Day,”
“Every lawful magistrate, whether succeeding or elected, is not only the minister of God, but the minister or servant of the people also and that minister or magistrate goes beyond his commission, who intermeddles with that which cannot be given him in commission from the people.”
Namely, a magistrate oversteps their sphere of authority when they ‘intermeddle’ with that which does not belong to them and especially that which belongs to Christ.
Consider this election day, what are those things that Christ has entrusted to the state, to minister over us for our good? What also are those things that Christ has entrusted to the church and family and that the state must not ‘intermeddle’ with and be kept from their hands?