Last 4th. of July I began what I intend to make a tradition: I read the Declaration of Independence aloud. (So far, I’m the only person present at the reading.) This year, while reading those hallowed words that explained & proclaimed the American Revolutionary cause, I also began to get unexpected glimpses of parallels with things not necessarily ‘political’. These glimpses will, I know, become full visions, if I am not just imagining them. If I am not just imagining them, surely others have been graced with such…insight.
My conviction that the hand & works of the Lord run through all of American history, for a strong & definite purpose, grows every day. There is not much about which I have no doubt, but I have no doubt about that. I think I am coming late to the party! as the almost tangibleness of His invisible things become more manifest to me. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:17 about affliction “…working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” and are counseled to look at those things which are not seen. I suspect that the United States of America is a powerful representation of those unseen things.
“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
What impacted me especially, in this statement in the beginning sentences of the Declaration of Independence, was the idea of the consent of the governed. That some form of government among men is necessary cannot be disputed. The heavy-handed concept of government might be inherently assumed. Clearly, with tyrants & dictators, it is. There, the people fall prey. Perhaps they have never known any other way.
(But there is another Way.)
God is on the march, and He has plans for men.
We begin our endeavors with high hopes & grandiose plans. Then, we usually start hitting roadblocks, right? Sometimes, roadblocks hit us! As the sparks fly upward, man is born for trouble, we read in the book of Job. (Job 5:7) I hate that this is written, but…it is. We can usually safely assume, at the very least, glitches along the way; but often serious difficulties, conflicts & divisions rise up.
So it is & has been in governments among men. The reason for that is that governments are composed of men. Our Founders knew this well, and did not expect perfection, or a problem-free republic. In the Federalist No.51, James Madison astutely wrote: “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
‘Glitches’ began rearing their hostile heads early on in the young United States. Prior to the framing of the Constitution, under the Articles of Confederation, Congress had failed so miserably to govern that a return to monarchy was being considered as the only defense against chaos. George Washington doubted that the young nation could exist much longer without “…having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union…” (Athearn, Robert G., American Heritage series, Vol.4, ‘A New Nation’) Such crises led to four months of constant, intense & sometimes bitter debate during the Constitutional Convention, where the Articles of Confederation were scrapped, and agreement was finally reached on the new Constitution of the United States of America.
Safeguards against the inclinations of man at his worst were implemented into our Constitution, to the best of our forefathers’ ability. In his closing speech at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, while acknowledging not entirely approving it, Benjamin Franklin also acknowledged astonishment that the finished Constitution of the United States of America approached “…so near to perfection as it does.” (Ravitch, Diane & Thernstrom, Abigail, eds., The Democracy Reader)
So…men struggle to achieve the goal of a free nation. Such a nation requires government. And perhaps we see in the heart, the form & the functioning of the government & citizens of the United States of America a parallel to the corporate body of Christ and the individuals within it. And thus, a glimpse into the heart & desire of God.
Just as the American governing system is comprised of many persons who serve in a hierarchy of various offices & functions, so Christ operates His government on this earth through His people, who serve within a Divine structure, as many members of one Body. Yet “…all members have not the same office.” (Romans 12:4) The optimal functioning of the body of Christ on earth requires the willing participation of…His people. God want co-workers. (2 Cor.6:1, 5:19) He wants us to agree with him, so that we can act in accord with His purposes. Although the Lord can do as He pleases, it is not in His heart to subvert us, or force us to work with Him. He wants our consent.
He wants the consent of those over whom He would be Lord.
Consent of the governed.