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What’s our role in supporting wise and good government?

From the Christian Science Sentinel - October 21, 2019

Looking at today’s news, it’s understandable if we think it’s relentlessly negative about the issues many countries are facing. Politicians serving in democratic nations—whether in the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, or elsewhere—often appear to be at war with each other. Many politicians frequently seem to have abandoned their civility in debating with one another. And the rest of us often have to refrain from discussing the issues to avoid doing the same. Recently, when I’ve met with friends and family in the UK, we’ve laughingly said, “Don’t mention the ‘B word,’ ” meaning Brexit, the process to implement the 2016 referendum decision for the UK to leave the European Union. Most everyone appears to be frustrated by the ceaseless twists and turns in a situation that has potentially enormous ramifications for the UK, Europe, and the world.

As a concerned citizen and a student of the Bible, I’ve been praying to better understand God’s good government and how such prayer can contribute to calm and justice in these situations. A letter in the Bible to an early Christian worker named Timothy, a well-loved coworker of the Apostle Paul, provides a helpful starting point. It includes this: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior” (I Timothy 2:1–3, New Living Translation). These words remind me to start my prayers for the world community by affirming that God’s government of us all enables all leaders to be open to divine leading, whether I agree with their political stance or not. 

So what can we experience of God’s government here and now, and how can we do this? Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, deeply loved the Bible, and in her main work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she provides a spiritual sense of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” are rendered as “Enable us to know,—as in heaven, so on earth,—God is omnipotent, supreme” (p. 17). Praying to see that God is the all-powerful divine Mind and that Mind’s will and purpose, which are always good, are ultimately supreme, has enabled me to feel more balanced and calm in the current political situation. 

The experience taught me that God’s laws are always governing and that God’s justice is wise and powerful. 

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy contrasts human willfulness with God’s will. The book’s Glossary defines the spiritual sense of will in part as “the might and wisdom of God” (p. 597). This, then, is a law of God’s government—that it expresses wisdom as well as might. And leaders in governments around the world who need to make difficult decisions can be supported in opening their thoughts to divine wisdom by the prayer of those of us willing to pray, so that they are increasingly enabled to make wise choices that express the nearest right for their nation and for others. 

But what if political leaders don’t seem to be open to this higher wisdom, or are even perceived as being untruthful? Praying further, I recalled a situation I was involved in some years ago. Working as a property surveyor and case worker for the UK government, I was managing a case in which the owners were disputing tax due on a commercial property. The case had been referred to a tribunal. As the case worker, I had met with the owners a number of times to try and resolve their dispute with the government and, finally, to agree among the three of us on facts to be presented to the tribunal. 

The owners had seemed to me to be not only less than helpful but also deliberately obstructive. In preparing the case, I had the property remeasured (with the owners present) to ensure that the correct factual information could be provided to the tribunal members. 

On the day of the hearing, the two owners wished to present their evidence separately from each other. As I started to question the first individual during the hearing, he gave false information to the tribunal. I tried to get him to clarify to the tribunal members what he was saying, but he persisted in his version of the “facts.” I was shocked at what appeared to be falsifying evidence to a legal tribunal, and I momentarily felt completely helpless. 

I didn’t know what to do from a human standpoint. But I did have the spiritual intuition to reach out to God quietly before I started to question the second owner. Two passages from Science and Health came to mind: “Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error” (p. 568), and “Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help” (p. 453). 

That powerful glimpse of God’s justice prevailing has encouraged me in my prayers about current government situations. 

I felt peaceful, with a strong trust in God’s answer to prayer. As the second owner began to speak, he suddenly changed what he had started to say and shared information that contradicted what the other owner had said in front of the tribunal. The chair of the tribunal stopped him and asked him to repeat what he was saying, and again the second owner confirmed that my evidence was correct. 

The resultant tribunal decision was just and fair. More important, though, the experience taught me that God’s laws are always governing and that God’s justice is wise and powerful. The laws of God had impelled those owners ultimately to be law-abiding.

That powerful glimpse of God’s justice prevailing has encouraged me in my prayers about current government situations. The New Testament of the Bible includes many letters written to fledgling Christian churches, similar to the one cited earlier in this article, addressing how to govern their church communities and encouraging them to face and pray about the political environment of their day. 

I’ve found a letter to the church at Corinth so encouraging. In it, Paul writes: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (II Corinthians 4:8, 9, NLT). Studying the meaning of the original Greek words in these verses helped me to see their rich significance: that we may be feeling mentally at a loss, cast down, or persecuted, but God’s law of love ensures we will not be helpless, hemmed in, deserted, left behind, or even destroyed by whatever we are facing, including what may seem distressing to us in a current political situation. 

Encouraged by Paul’s counsel, we can prayerfully trust the fact that God is the only lawgiver, and that since we’re created by God, the only jurisdiction under which we all live is God’s government, which includes His law of infinite good. As we work to acknowledge and more deeply understand God’s government, we can expect to see increasing evidence of God’s law of good in the decision-making and actions of our national and local governments. Civility, justice, fairness, and appropriate resolutions can become more apparent as we sincerely and impartially “pray for … all who are in authority.”

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