Did God Free America?

Monday, March 26, 2012

As Independence Day approaches, it's only natural that I should apply my developing philosophies on faith and authority to the origins of America and her government. Clearly independence from a tyrannical government leads to increased freedom. But is it right to take action against the reigning government? Is it God's will?

It is clear throughout the Bible that when nations are built up and when they are destroyed, it is God who ordains it. He has a purpose of which we are often not fully aware. I doubt there has ever been a single soul who truly understood His reason for the existence of the United States of America in the world for the past 235 years. Why was it colonized by several nations over a long time, only to shake free and become a free nation in 1776? Was the situation really so bad in the colonies that a revolt and war were necessary?

And, I must ask, how bad would things have to get for the people living in this great land to decide another revolt is needed?

This is as sensitive a subject as any I've approached here thus far. I know Christians who believe that the revolutionaries were following the call of God when they applied violence to their doctrines of independence. I've heard it said that America was established by God as a land where His law is held high. While many of us probably believe such things because we want to, there may be a kernel of truth to some of these thoughts.

It is God who establishes nations, and He uses people, good and bad, to accomplish His will for His good pleasure. When we talk about the American Revolution that led to her independence and establishment as a nation, we can focus on the people who led the revolt and wrote the Constitution, or we can focus on the God who created America.

When we focus on the people, we see decisions that were made that are not in keeping with Christ's teaching to not resist an evil person (Matthew 5:39). It may shock you to read such a statement. Am I suggesting that the colonists should have endured the suffering they experienced under British rule, without resistance? Should they have simply submitted to the governing authorities, repaying the soldiers good for evil, trusting God to care for their needs and relieve their burdens? Should they have loved their British enemies and prayed for them? I am no lover of government, but you can probably see that this is exactly what I'm suggesting. This is the behavior of God's true children (Matthew 5:44-5).

However, when we focus on God, we see His will in effect on the earth He created. In the Bible, we see Him softening and hardening hearts, giving visions and dreams, inspiring courage and fear, promising blessing and destruction, all to accomplish His purpose. Nothing He does is evil, for He is goodness itself.

The hearts of men, by contrast, are marred by evil, from the greatest to the smallest and from the most righteous to the most wicked. If God is going to use a man to accomplish His will, it must be through a man with a wicked heart, for that is the only kind available apart from Christ. Ecclesiastes 9:3 says, "Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live..." and Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, "...There is not a just man on earth who does good/And does not sin." Psalms 14:3 and 53:3, quoted by Paul in Romans 3, both say, "There is none who does good/No, not one." Therefore, it is a mistake to think that God accomplishes His will through men with good hearts, for there is only One who is good.

Many Christians think that because God only does good, nothing that we perceive as bad, such as the deaths of soldiers and civilians during war, could have been His doing. I have heard several pastors teach that natural disasters are not the Lord's doing. But Amos 3:6 implies the opposite when it asks, "If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?" Shortly after the 9/11 disaster, John Piper wrote eloquently,

How God governs all events in the universe without sinning, and without removing responsibility from man, and with compassionate outcomes is mysterious indeed! But that is what the Bible teaches. God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).
This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).
From the smallest thing to the greatest thing, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure - God governs them all for his wise and just and good purposes (Isaiah 46:10).

Therefore it would be incorrect to think that the birth of America was not God's will, even though men went against Christ's teachings to cause it to happen.

Some say that the circumstances under which we find ourselves today are much worse than what colonists were experiencing in the 18th century. Should we then rise up and retake the land as the revolutionaries did? If we are interested in obeying God's Word and showing ourselves as His children, we will do no violence to anyone. We will not vote for violence to be conducted by anyone. We will not support someone who proposes violence.

If God chooses to break the power of the current government and to replace it with another, or to replace it with nothing, and even if He uses the violence of rebellious, disobedient men to do so, blessed be the name of the Lord. All that He does is good and right. We must continue to resist the temptations of our fleshly hearts and to follow His example in doing what is good and right.

[Originally published June 29, 2011, on the blog On Faith and Authority]