If I made a dime for every time someone said that our government should be Bible-based, I could open up a full college fund for my children.
This kind of rhetoric always makes me wonder: If we were to govern with the Bible in mind, which part of the Bible would we choose? Would we follow the part where we get to stone our kids when they disobey? Or maybe we can revisit the part when men could marry more than one woman.
“No!,” you might say, “Not the Old Testament, but the New Testament.” Alright; perhaps we can have a government like the one portrayed in the Gospels. That means we will have to change a few things around here.
For one, we would have to engage in endless civil wars within our region. Right before Jesus was born, there were a variety of aristocrats who fought to be king. So happens that Herod was the favored thug at the time.
Herod was so well-like, he earned the title, “the Great,” because he kept the unemployment rate low by funding building projects. Sounds socialist to me, but that’s what they did back then. He also did away with political rivals, even going so far as killing his wife and five sons in order to keep civil war at bay.
Second, we won’t be able to vote. We would riot whenever we wanted to have our say. Big riots, with lots of pitch forks.
Third, we would re-establish an honor-and-shame system rampant in those days. You know, the type of honor that was only as good as the company you kept. When God comes back to reclaim His temple throne, you will want to be on the side of the Pharisees and scribes, I assure you.
Or would we?
If we wanted–truly wanted–to be biblical, we would not follow any of these prescriptions for government. We would implement something entirely different. Instead of raising an army or backing a Jewish aristocrat, we would have to side with a family that God sided with: a peasant family, one in which the girl was pregnant out of wedlock with no place other than a stable to have her child. We would be on the run, saving our first-born sons from the murderous threats of a modern-day Herod. We would hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes, sinners and cheats.
If we were truly biblical, this would be a time of great anticipation and longing, not for some pie-in-the-sky government, but for the coming of a type of God whose reign transcends all governments. That is Advent in a nutshell. It is the season in the Christian liturgical calendar when we remember that God showed favor to humanity in the least expected way, in a politically fragile environment.
In light of Advent, when we go “back to the Bible,” we find a God who became a carpenter’s son from an obscure village west of the Sea of Galilee. God did not become any politician or aristocrat; he didn’t even come in the form of a priest. In fact, He saved his harshest criticisms for the religious establishment.
Advent is a time, ultimately, when we do read the Bible and discover what it was like when Jesus was born. We do not read it to imitate that system, which died so long ago; rather, we revisit the Scriptures to resurrect the emotions and anticipation of what it was like to expect God’s visitation to humanity in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. We light a purple candle and bring light into darkness, and we sing, “Come Thou Almighty King!”