The Bible as a Political Text

The world has many celebrated political texts which illuminate various political perspectives. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a political treatise in story form. His “1984” is similarly charged with political messages. Hitler had his Mein Kampf. Marx relied on Darwin’s Origin of Species. Mao had his Little Red Book. Political texts come from the Greeks and Romans, along with many writings from before and since.

The Political Bible

But have you ever considered the Bible as a Political Text? I had never given the matter any thought until recently. I had unconsciously ascribed the Bible to the “Religion” Category. Many people who oppose the Bible are keen to promote it as nothing more than a book of religious sentiment. Sadly, unthinking Christians (and I include myself in this category) have allowed unbelievers to tell us how we can use the book God gave us.

Consider the Evidence

The Bible is the book from which a whole nation was governed for thousands of years. Did you get that word ‘governed’? The Bible supervised the Jewish nation through the stages of personal sovereignty, communal governance, prophetic leadership, judges, kings, priests and messianic ministry.

The Bible prescribes personal responsibility, communal accountability, leadership jurisdiction, limitations of power, prescribed punishments for crimes, payments of levies, interplay of priest and civic leaders, court procedures and so on.

And not only are these things discussed in practice and theory, they are demonstrated in the accounts of people’s lives.

Living in a Political World

Daniel and his three friends lived under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar and successfully confronted that king’s authority, relying on the principles given in the Bible.

Moses confronted the political power of Pharaoh, doing most of his business with that world ruler in Pharaoh’s own court.

Abraham dealt directly with the Abimelech (Canaanite leader) of his day, and so too did Isaac.

Jesus Christ was tried and crucified in the Roman courts and the Apostle Paul made many appearances before Roman appointed rulers.

The people of the Bible interacted with political powers and relied on the teachings of the Bible to empower them and to determine how they stood before those kings.

Some Amazing Political Statements

Consider this quick pick of hot political statements straight from the pages of the Bible.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” Jesus Christ, Mark 12:17

“Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.” Jesus Christ, John 19:11

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” 1Peter 2:17

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
Have Another Look

I trust that these few examples are enough to fire up your interest in the Bible as a Political Text. You just might be amazed at the political wisdom and the personal authority you can operate by, once you see what the Bible is really saying.

Honour Forgotten

Giving Honour, which I have looked at in some recent posts, is a matter of the heart. We are commanded to give honour, not as an outward form but as a heart choice. The problem in our society is that we have lost the notion of honour and only the form remains.

In bygone eras the giving of honour was a matter of character training. Children and youth learned to hold people in a place of honour. From that heart to give honour the child would happily do the things that expressed the honour in their heart.

When I was a child, and that wasn’t so long ago in historical terms, children still called adults by a title, such as Mr Jones or Mrs Smith. We were taught to respect our elders. Adults could not be spoken to the way we would speak to another child in the school yard. We had to say, “Excuse me”, when we wanted their attention. We had to wait for them to give us their attention before speaking. And so it went.

In a generation before mine it was customary for children to remain silent in the company of adults. At the dinner table, for example, children were to sit quietly and not speak unless spoken to. This behaviour pattern expressed honour to the adults and humility and self-control on the part of the children.

In the middle of last century it was still considered reasonable for a wife to serve her husband. She might prepare a hot drink for him and fetch his slippers to make him comfortable.

When travelling in a bus or train children were to give up their seat to an adult and everyone would give up their seat for an elderly person.

Honour was given to adults, the aged, those who were in positions of responsibility, those needing care, and so on. However, many people only learned the form, and not the heart attitude of honour that went with it.

In a previous post I pointed out that honour is a visible process. I’m going to almost contradict myself here, by noting that it is possible to go through the external motions, but not actually have the right heart attitude.

What happened historically was that children were taught to do the right thing, but not to feel the right heart attitude. Giving up their seat to an adult was seen as a duty, like a chore, but not as an expression of honour for that person.

Wives were told to please their husband, but as a matter of duty, not as an expression of the honour that was to come from their heart.

Children were told to be silent but did not understand why. So they demanded to be heard and no-one knew how to deal with that.

The actions have all but disappeared, because the people trying to teach them only held them as duties and appearances that had to be kept up. When the actions were challenged or disobeyed the teachers could not come up with a compelling reason to reinstate the lost practices. The problem? The practices had become a hollow and empty form of the process that was remembered. The action prevailed for a season, without the true heart basis upon which the actions were built.

We need to rediscover ‘honour’ and that will be reflected in actions that express honour to others. But it starts in the heart. If a child despises their parent then forced acts of honour are vain. If a child has no heart for the elderly then they will resent having to give up their seat for those people.

Honour has been forgotten and needs to be rediscovered. I pray that the Lord give us grace to make that discovery and to change the way people behave because we are able to transform their hearts first.

Disqualified Still?

The note simply said, “Please meet me in my office at 2pm” and it was signed by the lecturer the young man had so rudely interrupted the day before.

When the young man and the professor met, there was some time of awkward niceties until they were both settled into chairs. The young man waited quietly. He was the guest. He waited upon the professor’s purpose.

“A strange thing happened yesterday,” the professor began.

“I do apologise, sir. My actions were disrespectful and disruptive.” The young man had already planned his apology.

“I’m not talking about your interruption”, the professor interrupted. Then he paused, uncertain about continuing. In a moment or so he did so. “A strange thing happened. And it doesn’t make sense.” The professor was given to long pauses as he navigated through his points.

“You are right in your synopsis of the human condition. If we deny any higher power then we are all equal. We are all combatants in a life-long fight for significance and position. The honour one gives to another is of no more worth than the honour we give ourselves, since no-one has any higher dignity with which to confer higher graces.”

The young man simply nodded, pleased that he did not have to argue this point any further.

“Yet something strange happened yesterday.” He was back to his starting point. He turned to face the boy. “You gave me honour.” The perplexity in the man’s face was clearly visible.

“You made me special yesterday. You stole my class then you gave it back to me. You gave me honour that I did not demand of you, nor did you have to give it.” The professor stared into the face of the young man, who had nothing to say.

“If we are all equal, how is it that I feel you have given me something I cannot give myself?” The man’s fixed gaze of inquisition persisted until the young man wriggled in his seat and gave answer.

“Sir”, he began, “I didn’t give you honour yesterday. God did.” The young man waited to see if the professor would react. He didn’t.

“Sir, God asked me to show you that He gives you honour. God wants you to know that while you have rejected Him, He has not rejected you. He has not scrapped you, even if you are intent on scrapping yourself.” Seeing that his audience listened to every word the young man pressed on.

“Sir, God created you. You are not some biological freak, but a purpose-built creation, with divine destiny all over you. You have sold your soul to populist dogmas that have done nothing for you but demean your very existence. God is calling you back from that, to things far more noble than you have ever imagined.”

“That sense of honour that impacted you yesterday is just the early indicator of what God wants to give you in abundance.”

The professor sat back and absorbed what he had heard. His whole life had been predicated on the theory of evolution and the arrogance of his own mind. Yet in all the years of his grand achievements, amid all the accolades thrown at him by his peers, nothing had impacted him as much as the respect he received from a mere student. Was God truly reaching out to him? Could he respond? How would he explain to everyone such a change of heart?

Thus begins a transformation that is soon to sweep this generation. Strongholds have been built in the minds of men. Yet those men are desperately empty. Vain praise from vain men cannot warm the coals of human hearts. But the weapons of our warfare are stronger than those strongholds. God’s Spirit and God’s children are able to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

These are exciting new days as we enter into cultural movements that impact whole cities, nations and cultures in ways we have not seen before.

Can a nation be saved in a day? Let’s be part of making it happen!

Giving Honour is a Visible Process

Giving Honour is a Biblical mandate. We are commanded to give honour to those to whom it is due (Romans 13:7). We are also commanded to give honour to our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Yet most westerners have no real idea what giving honour looks like.

I mentioned in a previous post that years ago Dr Dewberry prompted me to question if I gave honour to my dad. I could not answer the question one way or the other, since I really had no handle on what giving honour would look like. Recently I found my heart turned to this subject yet again and some light has been filtering through, so that’s what I want to share with you in my posts on this subject.

Giving Honour is a matter of the heart. Honour is something that comes out from the inside of us. It is not an external ritual but a heart commitment. Yet it will also be a visible process, since it will lead to external expressions of what the heart feels.

It is appropriate, we would all agree, that honour should be given to a ruler. In my childhood it was the practice at every picture theatre (movie house – or whatever they may be called in your culture) to play the Australian national anthem at the commencement of every movie screening. Music would fill the theatre and images of the Australian flag would brighten the room. We would all stand to our feet as an act of giving honour to our country and our monarch. Images of a youthful Queen Elizabeth II, sitting side-saddle on a decorated horse, would fill the screen. We were giving honour to our Queen.

This external act was supposed to be an expression of our heart attitude of giving honour. Similarly army personnel salute a superior officer. A judge is addressed as “your honour”. A police officer is addressed as “sir”. These external expressions reveal that we hold them or their position in honour.

Sadly western culture has slaughtered honour on the altar of individualism and hedonism. But I’ll wax lyrical about that in a later post. Let me take time here to reveal what giving honour might look like in a home.

A man enters his home after work and is confronted with a cacophony of rowdy sounds. A child confronts him and berates him for not being home sooner, since they needed some of his money to buy something they wanted. Another child demands to know where the father has placed something they have been looking for, since they are sure he had it last. On the bench is a note from his wife, advising that he will have to fend for himself, since she decided to go shopping with some friends and would eat out.

What are the evidences of honour in that scenario? Do we see anyone giving honour?

Since the Bible commands us to give honour, what would a home look like where honour was embraced at a heart level? Maybe it would look like this…

A father arrives home from work to be greeted by his attentive and quiet children who take care of his bag and coat. The children remain quiet, so as not to disturb their father. Refreshments have been prepared the way dad likes them, to soothe him. A report is given to him of all matters that he should be apprised of, since he is the one who is responsible for all the members of the household. Several children respectfully give him their report on their day, so they can share with their dad, but also to be sure that he knows things which he might not otherwise find out about.

When the dinner is ready there is a special seat at the head of the table for dad. He is served first and the children are respectfully quiet, taking their lead from the dad’s questions and directions.

Now, without going any further, does that not strike you as a stark contrast to the first scenario? And aren’t you just a little bit inclined to think of the second scenario as being a bit too ‘old fashioned’?

It’s interesting that we relegate giving honour to some past era. It is now out of fashion. It is almost absurd. So let me take my illustration a little further.

The wife is asked by a friend to head off for a fun shopping trip with some surprise visitors. The wife thanks her friend for the invitation but explains that her husband will be home in an hour and she has several things to prepare. The friend suggests that the wife do just as the friend is doing, “Make hubby fend for himself for a change”. The wife declines, explaining that it would be wrong to set that example for her children.

The friend reacts to this. “For crying out loud, you aren’t still thinking you owe your husband something, are you? You know what men are like! They need to be put in their place every so often. If I gave my husband special treatment he’d be likely to expect it all the time.”

The wife explains that she promised God to give honour to her husband, since the husband is God’s gift to her. She explains that she also promised to train her children to give honour to their dad, and so she must be the first to give a positive example. She further explains that her husband is only an ordinary man, and he has no special qualities that earn him such honour. It is simply that God requires it of her and that it is her special gift to her husband.

That’s why I mentioned the visible process in the title of this article. Giving Honour is a Visible Process. If you have honour in your heart it will be seen in your actions.

I did not know how to give honour to my dad, because I grew up in a culture that was throwing off the old fashioned ideas of honour and other Victorian values. It was somehow noble to be arrogant. It was part of the evolutionary advancement of our society to be big enough to move beyond those childish rules and regulations of a simpler and less developed age. Wow! What arrogance and deception was being foisted on us.

Giving Honour is now finally filtering through to me. Maybe you’ve understood it all your life. Next time I’ll share about how the person and the position impact the whole honouring process.
(Honour is the English spelling, while Honor is the American spelling. So this article could just as well have been called “Giving Honor Is a Visible Process” and I could have said, “Honor your father and mother”. Please excuse my default to the spelling of my schooling. The American form may be simpler, but it just looks ‘wrong’ when I write it. I pray my American friends can tolerate the fact that I actually enjoy being who I am, and that I decline the offer of American simplifications.)

Giving Honour

We are to “give honour to whom honour is due” (Romans 13:7). Ha! That is SO un-cool in today’s western culture. Rabid individualism and contempt for authority have bred a culture where it is obnoxious to have to give anyone respect, honour or special place.

This is not to say that it isn’t done and that in various aspects of western society it may be done well, but among many within current western culture it is not done at all. Rebellion, scorn, independence, cynicism and similar attitudes mitigate the ready giving of honour to others.

So let’s take a closer look at what the Apostle Paul instructed us to do:

“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” Romans 13:7

Christian’s know that one of the Ten Commandments is to honour our mother and father (Exodus 20:12). We also know that there is a blessing which goes along with that commandment.

“Honour your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12

There is a promise of longevity attached to this commandment to give honour. So ‘giving honour’ is something which demands at least some serious attention.

The Apostle Paul quoted this commandment, giving it special relevance to the behaviour of children. He notes that there is a ‘promise’ attached to the giving of honour in line with this command.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour your father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) That it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” Galatians 6:1-3

Unfortunately for modern Christians Paul’s reiteration of this command has skewed its application toward children, and not to the rest of us.

So I want to re-focus your attention on ‘giving honour’. I think it’s much more important than most western Christians assume it is in their daily lives.

What does giving honour look like? Many years ago when Dr Harold Dewberry was staying in my home, I asked him to pray for some health challenges we were facing. Harold is a remarkably perceptive man, in particular with use of the gift of Word of Knowledge. I have been amazed at times with the profound accuracy and effect of his use of this gift in counselling. However, in praying with us, Harold didn’t seem to get any particular revelation.

Then, after spending a good amount of time praying with us, Harold asked me a question. He asked, “Chris, do you honour your father?”

I was caught off guard. I really did not have any clear reference point on the subject, to understand the giving of honour to my father, and so I could only guess at whether I did or not. I was not conscious of giving my dad honour, nor was I conscious of denying it to him. When I explained my inability to answer clearly Harold advised that he felt prompted to ask the question, but he also did not have any particular wisdom on how to be certain that honour had or had not been given.

As soon as I could after that, I organised a series of meetings for my dad to teach. I guessed that promoting my dad’s ministry was one expression of giving honour.

Now, let me ask YOU the question. Do you give honour to your father? Do you know how to measure the level of honour you give or don’t give? By what evidence can you prove that you do or do not give honour?

My guess is that most western Christians don’t have clear answers to those questions. My guess is you’ll like to know what I am coming to understand on that topic. Keep an eye out for a post I’ll do in the next week or so, where I will share my emerging understanding. By the way – the application of ‘giving honour’ goes beyond how we respect our dad. It impacts how spouses treat each other, how Christians treat each other and how we function in the broader community.