What's Wrong With Our Governments?

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What's Wrong With Our Governments?

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How will historians look back on the events of the last few decades? How will they interpret the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, the moral decay of the United States and other Western nations or the reasons for the AIDS epidemic?

Libraries bulge with books explaining the social, moral, economic, military, religious, agricultural, environmental and political reasons that every government from the ancient Sumerians to Nazi Germany has ultimately ended in ruin. The cycle repeats itself again and again.

Rudyard Kipling captured the essence of the cycle of man's inability to govern himself in his novel The Man Who Would Be King. The tale describes two British soldiers in 19th-century India who decided to travel into remote mountains to find an "uncivilized" people and set themselves up as kings.

In the course of the story, the two soldiers take over a small mountain tribe, teach its members how to use firearms and proceed to conquer the neighboring tribes. They institute a benevolent dictatorship.

At first the self-styled English kings seem to bring progress to the tribes. Eventually the mountain people begin to look on the pair as gods.

The Englishmen's favored condition persists until one of the men makes amorous advances toward a local girl. This leads the villagers to decide that their rulers aren't really gods. The pair are dethroned; one is killed, the other tortured. The second man lives just long enough to escape and tell his story.

It seems that man needs government, laws and leadership for his own good, but people tend to corrupt themselves by the very power inherent in government.

The Roman Empire and the United States

Why do great nations and even empires decline and fall? No great power's collapse has spawned more discussion than that of the Roman Empire. Although many differences between ancient Rome and the United States are apparent, many unsettling similarities demand serious consideration.

Taylor Caldwell wrote a historical-fiction account of the life of the apostle Paul in the ancient Roman world. In the introduction to Great Lion of God, she refers to conclusions she drew from her research:

"... The Roman world was declining in the days of Saul [Paul] of Tarshish as the American Republic is declining today—and for the same reasons:

Permissiveness in society, immorality, the Welfare State, endless wars, confiscatory taxation, the brutal destruction of the middle-class, cynical disregard of the established human virtues and principles and ethics, the pursuit of materialistic wealth, the abandonment of religion, venal politicians who cater to the masses for votes, inflation, deterioration of the monetary system, bribes, criminality, ... the loss of masculine sturdiness and the feminization of the people, scandals in public office, plundering of the treasury, debt, the attitude that 'anything goes,' the toleration of injustice and exploitation, bureaucracies and bureaucrats issuing evil 'regulations' almost every week, the centralization of government, the public contempt for good and honorable men, and, above all, the philosophy that 'God is dead,' and that man is supreme" (1970, pp. xi-xii).

Is America headed down the same path as ancient Rome? Politicians claim their platforms and agendas can solve our problems, yet much of the Western world continues to face a spiral of crime, illegal-drug use, broken marriages and economic uncertainty.

The paradox is that governments tend to perpetuate the problems they are supposed to solve.

Historian Barbara Tuchman writes in her classic exposition of human government, The March of Folly: "A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be" (1984, p. 4).

In the Beginning

How did such bad government originate?

When God created humankind, He gave Adam and Eve basic instructions on how to govern this planet: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Genesis 1:27-28).

But our first parents chose to disregard God's rule over their lives, instead partaking of "good and evil" (Genesis 3) and establishing their own style of government. The pattern was set.

Since then, human history has been one agonizing experiment by tribes, city-states, nations and empires to create systems of government—all of which eventually failed. Although some forms appear to be better than others, all contain the seeds of their own destruction. It was Winston Churchill who observed that democracy was the worst form of government, "except for all the others."

This cycle of failure has led many leaders of nations to conclude that real peace, justice and prosperity for all mankind can only be brought about by one world government. Woodrow Wilson, president during World War I, died a broken man because of his lost dream of the League of Nations. Many are similarly disillusioned today over the failure of the United Nations to create real peace and unity for humanity.

But why should governments fail? Why can we find no lasting solutions? The reason is simple: The problem with human government is man himself.

A Government that Works

The words of the prophet Isaiah portend a time when the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, will bring a successful government to the world. "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7, emphasis added throughout).

When Jesus walked the earth, His fellow Jews were waiting for the Messiah to appear and establish this kingdom. To a few, Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah of these prophecies, although His message about the Kingdom wasn't exactly what they expected.

Even His disciples believed Jesus would immediately overthrow their Roman overlords and establish a powerful Jewish nation in Judea. However, Jesus told them He would be rejected by men, leave and then return to establish the Kingdom. In the meantime, His servants would have to live as members of His Kingdom while surrounded by the hostility of Satan's rule (Luke 19:11-27).

After Jesus' death and resurrection, His followers eventually realized that the Messianic world rulership would not take place in their lifetimes. Yet they were already spiritual citizens of His Kingdom. In a real way Christians find themselves both "heirs" of a future Kingdom (James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Timothy 4:1) and "ambassadors" of that Kingdom to a dying world (2 Corinthians 5:20).

We can experience a change from despair to hope by submitting to God's rule now. This requires that we dedicate our lives to the King of that Kingdom, Jesus Christ. Our submission to Him will demand changes in our family lives, our example as employees and employers, the way we treat our neighbors, how we act at school, our willingness to serve others, how we relate to God and faith that the real answers to life come from obedience to God's Word.

The Hope for the Future

Future generations will look back at this point in history and recognize it as just another chapter in mankind's failure to govern itself. Humanity must realize that on its own it cannot solve the problems of government, agriculture, industry, education, family, health and personal relationships. The Bible reveals that, with mankind on the brink of self-destruction, Jesus Christ will return to solve these problems and show man how to live by establishing God's Kingdom on earth.

You have the opportunity to taste that Kingdom now, even in the midst of a world filled with hopelessness, poverty, war, violence and bigotry. The answer is accepting God's rule in your life. Future issues of The Good News will show you more solutions to human problems from the Bible—solutions that can transform your life. GN