Humanity corrupts everything it touches, eventually corrupting it completely. Because of this, any institution – no matter how well or nobly begun – must from time to time be reset if anything good or noble is to remain of it. This is especially true of human government, for as the institution designed by Heaven to limit the worst expressions of the sinful human nature, government has the potential to obliterate human freedom and dignity if not kept in check. Since government will never voluntarily keep itself in check, it must be gently reset by its people if it is mildly out-of-line, and violently reset by them when it is horribly out-of-line (as we Americans learned in the Revolutionary War).
The best course of action for a self-governing people in the resetting of their government is (of course) peaceful reformation, and there are two excellent Biblical examples of this idea. The first is the amazing Year of Jubilee in ancient Israel (Leviticus 25:8-55), where every fiftieth year all debts were cancelled, all slaves were set free and all land was returned to its ancestral family. In this way everything that enslaved the Israelites was automatically reset twice a century, and it was a blessed event when the ram’s horn sounded and Freedom! was proclaimed throughout the land.
Since nothing enslaves quite so naturally and comfortably as government does, we would do well to learn from this example, and it would go much better for us, for our freedom and for our dignity if our government were automatically reformed back to its bare framework every fifty years (if not sooner). Since such a scenario will never occur short of a new Constitution, we must ourselves begin to apply pressure toward stripping away any position of government that redistributes wealth, any form of government that is compassionate, and any arm of government that exists outside of Biblical and Constitutional mandate. This requires tremendous and lasting involvement in the realm of political affairs by those who genuinely and unapologetically understand the Judeo-Christian worldview, but so it must always be.
The second fine example of peaceful reformation in Scripture is brought to us by the prophets of Israel and Judah, who time and time again pointed out the vast differences between what was represented in the Word of God as opposed to what was represented in their cultures and governments. They did this by speaking to the people in order to reform their cultures, and by speaking to their monarchs in order to reform their governments – both of which illustrate for us that the concept of true reformation necessarily begins with the hearts of all involved, and which is generally accompanied by a revival of love for (and adherence to) God’s Word. If it is otherwise, the likely result will be a form of government as equally bad or worse than the one being reset.
But when the tyranny of government grows to the point where it will not allow itself to be reined in by the efforts of its people, the more serious ideas of secession and revolt may need to be tried. When the national government of Israel under Solomon’s son Rehoboam threatened greater tyranny to the people than that experienced under Solomon’s latter years, Jeroboam led the ten northern tribes to secede from the nation (1 Kings 12). Though the Northern Kingdom may have poorly managed its consequent affairs does not detract from the fact that their cause was just, and that it was aided by God Himself.
Revolution differs slightly from secession in that it is characterized by the actual or attempted overthrow of the current government by force, rather than by divorcing from it. After being anointed by God as king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu revolted against the remnants of the House of Ahab (2 Kings 9-10), and although it didn’t come to outright civil war, it was nonetheless a costly and bloody affair. From the Southern Kingdom comes the revolt of the High Priest Jehoiada, who overthrew the tyrant Athaliah and restored the throne to the rightful House of David (2 Kings 11), costing the tyrant her life.
Like secession, revolution against onerous government therefore has a Biblical basis for existence, and should be a consideration that remains within the realm of possibility for any people, for a government that fears its people is usually a much better government. But it is a deathly serious business, for the tyranny of government will not go quietly into that dark night, and so it is a much better thing that a people keep their government in check and peacefully reform it at all times. The other options are far less desirable.
This may seem a strange article coming from a pastor, but as a servant of Jehovah I have a profound stake in the issues of human freedom and dignity, for such things beautifully reflect God’s image in us (Genesis 1:26,28), and I would not see them lost. We have but a short window left in which we have the opportunity to reform our government back to within the small box created for it by the Constitution and by Scripture, after which we have but three dire options: slavery to it, secession from it or revolution against it.
Let us see to reformation, then, with all due haste and seriousness, for what lies beyond will not be to our liking.