Encouragement From The Word

Government by public opinion

Warning:  Today’s Encouragementis about as political as I’ll ever get.  I’m not looking for a debate.  I encourage you to consider the broader issue and what God’s Word has to say to that broader issue.  Thanks for reading.  JFL

Government by public opinion is almost never a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that we should ditch democracy; after all, as Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”  I think it’s good that the people should elect their governments; I’m blessed to live in a country where that happens regularly.

But when that government, elected by me and many thousands of others, decides to rule by public opinion, we are in trouble.  Big trouble.

Take, for example, the report that came out earlier this week that the public health department in the city of Toronto believes that all drugs for personal use should be decriminalized.  Why do they believe this?  They say that the city’s current policy regarding drugs is not working, and furthermore, they say that a public health consultation has indicated that in general, people favour decriminalization.

Now, personally, I think this is a dangerous idea (that carries a dangerous precedent with it), but let’s set aside the issue of drug decriminalization, and look instead at the principle of government by public opinion.  Why is it such a bad idea?  After all, if the people elect the government, shouldn’t the government do the people’s bidding?

In theory, at least, we elect people to public office to govern us because we believe they have the necessary gifts, talents, skills, and wisdom to undertake the task.  And when a majority of the people in a given geographical area share that opinion, individuals are elected.  At the federal and provincial levels, at least, a particular party is declared to be the governing party when a majority of its representatives are elected by the voters.  We then entrust the responsibility of governing to these people.

When a government decides to legislate based on opinion polls and consultations – particularly on issues of morality – that government to which we entrusted responsibility then abdicates its responsibility to do what it discerns is best for the people.  Instead, it does what the people want…and in this fallen, sinful world, that’s not always what’s best for them.

Imagine if your family ran like that?!  If you and your spouse decided to do public consultations with your toddlers on what they should eat, when they should go to bed, whether or not they should look both ways before crossing the street, etc., how does that demonstrate responsibility for your children – and love for them?

In theory at least, the government is supposed to be the parent, and we are supposed to be the children.  That certainly seems to work when it comes to the Canada Revenue Agency; why not in other areas?

The Bible says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God…. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good” (Romans 13.1, 4, NLT).

Of course, some will cite National Socialism in Germany in the 20th century as a “but” to that passage, yet we cannot let our interpretation of the Scriptures be based on exceptions.  The Nazi regime was a notable exception, but it is an exception.  In general, governments (even harsh ones, as in the context in which the apostle Paul wrote Romans 13) are put in place for us to follow, not for the government to follow us.

Pray for your elected officials at all levels. Pray that God will give them wisdom and strength to do the hard work of governing placed before them.  Write to your elected officials; encourage them to make hard decisions that they believe will benefit society.  If you think they make the wrong decisions, let them know at the next election!  But let’s not tie the hands of government by suggesting that they should rule based on public opinion.

Above all, pray for the salvation of your elected officials.  Pray that these people will have a life-changing encounter with the living God, made known in Jesus Christ!  Imagine what God could do with a government composed of Spirit-filled men and women who want what God wants for your city, province or nation?

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