Revelation 1:6: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
The RSV translates: “And made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.”
The Original Idea of Priesthood
In most ancient cultures only the kings and priests were educated and all literature was written by and for this group. But it is notable that now every Christian is a King and Priest, restoring God’s original plan to give Mankind dominion. This is not the distorted view of kingship and priesthood as Man dominating Man, however. God’s original plan was for Man to rule over The Flesh, that is, “everything that creeps upon the earth,” and subdue, not only the animal kingdom in general, but the passions and lusts of his own fleshly nature as well.
Even in his fallen estate, there is a need in Man for power. In its proper order, this need is fulfilled in self-discipline. When a society is made up of self-disciplined men, then there can be freedom, but when self-discipline fails, laws must be enacted and restrictions must be imposed by outside force in an effort to maintain order. The less self-discipline, the less freedom and the more chaotic the society. As the failure of law and order progresses, the power of brute force becomes the dominant force. Ultimately, the failure of self-discipline leads to the law of the jungle, “survival of the fittest,” the rule of tooth and claw and the disintegration of civilization.
Man’s need for power, misused, becomes “power-lust.” Like other lusts, it is insatiable; the more it is fed, the greater its appetite. A taste of power often makes the man ravenous as a wild beast that gets a taste of blood. The history of the world is replete with accounts of men who became maniacal tyrants through their lust for power. Power-lust is manifest in other forms than military and political; popularity, fame, and wealth are some of the variations in its form. It may even be found in religious systems. Indeed, there is no power so strong as the power of superstition.
The Flesh must be ruled; the Spirit must be free.
Only the man who can rule his own flesh can be free from the laws necessary to living in a society. Government, therefore, must not be seen as merely the objective, rational science of politics and law. This is only one of the more conspicuous manifestations of it. The body of laws enacted by legislative bodies is also a manifestation of the governing force but not the essence. Toynbee has wisely noted that codification of laws reaches its peak when the ungovernable forces of the flesh are about to bring down the structure of civilization.
What is Government?
The definition of government as a “social contract” is far too narrow. Indeed, the “social contract” might conceivably be anti-government. At best it can only deal with the limited aspect of Man’s relationship to Man. It leaves out the relationship of Man to himself and the prerequisite relationship of Man to God. I submit that government must be viewed as a closed continuum of Man to himself, Man to Man, and Man to God. I therefore reject the notion that government can be a separate science from religion.
It is commonly said that the family is the smallest unit of government. At the same time we speak of self-control or individual government. If the individual is a unit of government, then he, and not the family, would be the smallest unit. Is the individual a governing unit? The answer to this question determines whether or not democracy is possible, for democracy is self-government. Freedom is not the absence of government, but the ability to govern oneself.
Mastery of ‘The Flesh’
In the earliest records of civilization, writings and drawings depict Man struggling with a Beast. Indeed, this struggle continues its appeal even in modern times. One of the earliest fears of small children is of beasts. There is a deep symbolic significance to this dramatic appeal, for it represents Man’s struggle with his own fleshly passions. This struggle is vital to civilized society, for without it civilization is impossible. No relationship with others can survive unless and until Man comes to terms with himself. There must be a degree of mastery of the Flesh.
Marriage and Family Government
The earliest social contract on record is that of marriage, which began the governing unit of the family. The importance of this unit can not be over-emphasized as it is basic to all further social contracts. It is the most valuable and, if functioning properly, the only essential governing unit; without it, no greater unit can function properly. The concept of the family may be applied to ever widening groups – the community, the nation, the world. The essential relationships of Man to Man are those of the family, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and children. If family ties are severed or strained, the person can hardly find the larger community compatible.
The source of all successful social interaction is compatibility with God. Government without a source and without a goal can not be. Man must ultimately realize that God is the source of control, of order, of law. It would naturally follow that He is also the goal, the ultimate Judge and Rewarder.
It is no accident that religions which teach symbolically the sacrifice of the passions, often symbolized by the sacrifice of animals, precede, produce and sustain civilizations. When passions are given full reign, civilizations fall.
God is no small concept. Unbelief is often the inability to see beyond the image of God one has fashioned for himself. But God is yet above and beyond as well as before and beneath all human ideas. Yet He has revealed Himself to Man in government. However, His government is not such that the undisciplined Man could perceive. The government which issues from God is not one of force, but one of choice. This is Freedom. The alternative is slavery to the passions. Freedom allows Man to develop his full potential; slavery exploits and dissipates his body, mind and soul.
Separation of Church and State?
There can, therefore, be no dichotomy between spiritual and secular governments. There can only be “separation of Church and State” in theory when these are merely separate manifestations of Man’s lust for power. Neither can have a desirable result unless the Spirit moves upon Man from within himself, effecting the conquering of passions and the desire for social order. The only legitimate source of this power within Man is God. Thus the circle is complete: God moves within Man; Man rises up to conquer passions, form social contracts, and in turn submits to the authority of God. Government in any other form is only, at best, the imposition of the will of the strong.