Self-Government

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President Ramaphosa said again this week, “It is in your hands now.” He was referencing Nelson Mandela’s words (2007?) in a speech exhorting the next generation of leaders tasked with the responsibility to lead the way towards a better South Africa. Our president has been increasingly quoting these words as our lockdown begins to slowly let up. I appreciate the reminder.

Civil government is important, but it can never replace responsible selfgovernment. In fact, the latter makes for a better former. Civic-wide responsible self-government usually means a less intrusive civil government.  As many political scientists have observed, when a society becomes a libertarian free-for-all, it is only creating the eventuality of a totalitarian regime. From anarchy to dictatorships, and from dictatorships to anarchy. So the extreme back-and-forth of many a society.

When God established Israel as his chosen, covenantal nation, he gave her laws. Whether the Ten Commandments or the numerous case laws, almost all of them were for the purpose of teaching his people to regulate themselves (see especially Exodus 19–24). God’s laws were for the purpose of holding individuals accountable for personal responsibility. In this way, the individuals would honour God thus bringing blessing to the nation (“righteousness exalts a nation” [Proverbs 14:34]).

As citizens lived in the awareness of their accountability before God, motivated by love for him, a consequence would be loving treatment of their neighbours. After all, if you are tempted to steal your neighbour’s Weber, you will hopefully stop dead in your tracks when you realise God would be displeased. Even the mere consideration of the possible consequences, though not the highest motive, would at least help to keep you and your neighbour on speaking terms. Regardless, assuming personal responsible is good for the individual, as well as for society at large. I think this is what our president’s point. But this is the rub, as they say.

I’m tired of my glasses fogging up whenever I wear my mask, even when I wear my Batman mask. Pulling up my buff, when running near people, making it even more difficult for me to breathe, is, well, a pain. Smelling like hand sanitiser rather than like my masculine cologne is a blow to my ego (especially when wearing my Batman mask!). As great as it is to have people gathered in our church building, the social distancing makes it a bit awkward as it looks like no one likes each other! And the inability to hug my grandchildren, well, let’s not even go there. (I think it’s true as someone said, Grandparents should be designated an “essential service.”) But, it is what it is and, in many ways, how well we continue to weather the storm of this pandemic is in our hands. We need to keep doing the hard thing of self-governance.

Yes, we are in God’s hands. But God expects us to take ourselves in hand and to live responsibly.  We do so by obeying the laws and by taking personal responsibility to adhere to health protocols. But the same holds true for our spiritual health.

Eighty-eight days ago (22 March), as we prepared for lockdown, our congregation was challenged to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). That responsibility, though perhaps now more challenging, remains true. Being Governed by King Jesus, we are to exercise self-government, motivated by loving, loyal devotion to him.

Stuart and I have enjoyed the opportunity to feed the flock via several articles each week. We desire to assist the congregation in our worship, in our walk and in our daily warfare. But at the end of the day, each of us must confess, “It is in my hands.” Let’s each take ourselves in hand and by the power of the Holy Spirit, obey God’s word, pray, and seek his face. As we do so, we will mature in the faith and come out of this pandemic as a more mature, Christlike church than we were nearly thirteen weeks ago.

Self-governing alongside you,

Doug