OT: 2 Chron. 26:1-28:27
Wow, yesterday was something of a low point in terms of the usefulness of this blog. I'm glad I let my exhaustion be known beforehand, so hopefully my three readers just dismissed my entire section on the OT, where I conflated Joash with Josiah. Sorry guys--the later kings meld together in my mind, especially when I am loopy with fatigue.
I wish I could assure you that I am back on track today, but the truth is, the later kings still all mush together in my brain, and it is subsequently hard for me to engage in the readings. Their names, their actions...so similar, so repetitive...
And yet, I did enjoy today's reading. Things made pretty good sense to me, and there were no new questions about God's character to grapple with. Uzziah was king, and he was as good as his father, which meant that he was okay. (Didn't his dad "serve the Lord, but not with his whole heart," or something like that? On second thought, don't answer that.) Anyway, Uzziah as good king was generally successful, and then he got too proud and got leprosy. Next, Jotham was king, and he was also pretty good.
The streak ends with Ahaz, who is quite terrible, what with his idol worship and sacrificing kids in the fire and all that (shudder). As a result, God allows Israel to defeat Judah, but then He sends a prophet to chastise Judah for being too hard on Israel. See? This is the stuff I like to hear. God's prophet tells them that they have gone too far, and that they need to be merciful to their prisoners and set them free. So...they do! In fact, they "give clothes from the plunder to the prisoners who were naked" (28:15). Furthermore, they "provided clothing and sandals to wear, gave them enough food and drink, and dressed their wounds with olive oil. They put those who were weak on donkeys and took all the prisoners back to their own people in Jericho, the city of palms. Then they returned to Samaria." In short, they acted like...wait for it...good Samaritans! Yay!
Yes, I'm cheesy. And yes, I very much enjoyed that story.
NT: Romans 13:1-14
The Romans 13 passage on government seems really important b/c it is probably the most expansive statement on what a Christian's attitude should be toward his or her government. And yet, it is also really confusing. So...all authority is instituted by God, and we shouldn't rebel against it? Well, what about Hitler? Should the Germans not have tried to stop Hitler? What about the American Revolution? Hellooo! Talk about your rebellion against authority! Heck, what about the civil rights movement? You cannot tell me that Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong!
So...what does this passage mean? My instinct to societal withdrawal tells me that Paul is telling us that changing government is not a big priority. It makes me think that this passage goes well with those passages where Paul tells slaves to obey their masters. He tells people to do this, not b/c slavery is acceptable, but b/c personal freedom is not one of his biggest priorities. It seems that to Paul, the number one goal of Christians should be to further God's kingdom, and that it would be a distraction, not to mention a sin, to waste your time rebelling against secular authorities, no matter how wrong they might be.
Instead, Paul admonishes Christ's disciples to LOVE (8-10). Again, the withdrawer in me senses an underlying theme of separation. Paul starts out verse 8 by saying, "Owe nothing to anyone." In verse 10, he says, "Love does no wrong to others." Basically, it seems that Paul is saying that if you live a life of love, the government will leave you alone.
Except that they don't. And they didn't even to Paul. And what happens when "loving your neighbors" involves freeing them from an oppressive regime?
It gets confusing.
Now, a "loose" model of inspiration might take into account the fact that the Roman government had not gotten super-bad by this point in their persecution of Christians. Or that Paul seems to clearly think the end is verrrry near, way too near to be worrying about such things as governmental authorities (11-12). OR that Paul had no concept of a democratic republic, or of the responsibility that such a government gives to its citizens to be involved.
Anyway, I still don't fully understand Romans 13. And I have approximately a billion more thoughts, but for the life of me, I can't get any of them to make enough sense to actually type out. I have actually read a ton on Romans 13, both from pacifists and from "just war" theorists. I am just not having great recall right now...
(Should I tell you that this is another late night blog, or have you already gathered that? It's going to be like this for another couple of days, folks. Sorry 'bout your luck:).)
It's a shame, a crying shame, when mind-bending passages ruin the passage that comes after them. Yesterday, my Joash/Josiah debacle mixed-up my mind so much that I couldn't fully enjoy Romans 12. And today, my circular musings on government are still swirling in my brain, preventing me from soaking up the beauty of this Psalm.
But it is comforting to read, as always.
"Even children are known by the way they act..."