Having given some sermons recently on God’s approach to government as depicted in Scripture, the passage I came across in an article I read tonight was just too good (in my opinion) not to pass along.
It was an article in the magazine The Home School Report, sent out regularly by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) of which we are members. The article “The Mississippi Five and the Case of the Missing Case” was a really good one illustrating how some judges can too easily assume much, much more power than they actually have (thankfully, the Supreme Court of Mississippi saw it the same way), and one detail in the article seemed written with God’s approach to government in mind.
Oddly, perhaps, it wasn’t anything related to the actual “governmental” issues on which the article focused. Rather, it concerned the relationship between two of the HSLDA lawyers working on the case (or, as it were, the non-case, which was the issue at hand).
The unique legal situation in Mississippi demanding immediate action was brought to the attention of HSLDA Director of Litigation and author of the article, Jim Mason (as he says in the byline: No relation to Perry). Realizing the scope of what they would be dealing with, he brought it to the attention of HSLDA Board Chairman and one of its two founding lawyers, Michael Farris. After Mr. Farris, a very busy man, read the information brought to him by Mr. Mason, he looked up and said, “I know what I’m doing for the rest of the day.”
Without going into the details of what they had to address and had to address quickly on behalf of homeschoolers in Mississippi (which they did successfully, by the way), let me simply say that it required immediate action to create necessary filings the very next day involving analysis of a very novel situation.
That said, it was Mr. Jim Mason’s description of how he and Mr. Michael Farris, his boss, worked together — in that instance and generally — that grabbed my attention unexpectedly:
“After working on dozens of cases together, Mike and I have developed a working relationship that lends itself to quick, decisive, but careful action. Mike is bold, aggressive, and optimistic. He immediately sees the big picture and focuses on the pros.
“I am more cautious, worry about the details, and think about the precise legal theories and all of the objections to each. My mind runs quickly to the cons.
“These early legal discussions tend to be vigorous, freewheeling, sometimes heated, but always collegial and respectful. Mike does me the great honor of listening to my objections and taking them seriously. He knows that I in turn will cheerfully defer to his final decision and work hard to carry it out even if a few minutes before I was vigorously arguing against it.”
That working relationship, so described, was so good a picture of something I’ve tried to describe that I was surprisingly excited to read it. In particular, it was that last paragraph. Mr. Mason speaks of the freedom the two of them have to be honest with each other and to express strong opinions, even if different. He speaks of the fact that although Michael Farris is the one who will ultimately call the shots he listens sincerely to Mr. Mason’s objections and disagreements to consider them seriously. And he points out that Mr. Farris, in turn, knows with confidence that once he makes the call, Mr. Mason will devote himself to making that call work, even if it was not at all the way that he recommended it should go.
(Actually, my “summary” of their relationship is longer than the one Mr. Mason wrote, and his description makes the points better! Forget you read that last paragraph and go read his last paragraph again. The last three sentences are gold.)
That is exactly what God wants to see in the governments that He ordains. There IS a head in those governments. There IS someone who must, when it comes down to it, call the shots! Such a person should listen to those under him — listen to their advice and counsel (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 24:6) and search out their perspectives (Prov. 20:5), even if the resulting opinions differ greatly from the one he brought to the discussion. Then that head makes the call. (Because someone always has to make the call!) Once he does, those under him work to make it happen, even if they had been advising the opposite the moment before.
That this arrangement exists in the God Family is clear and in God’s design for the human family is clear (1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, Luke 22:42, et al.). That such principles apply in the New Testament Church — just as surely as they did in the “Old Testament Church” (e.g., Exodus 18:13-26) — is unpopular to say, but that doesn’t make it false. Nor does the unpopularity of the principle remove the truth that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), and that it is only sensible to think that the government that He has experienced since eternity, that He personally placed within the family, and that He will be implementing in His Kingdom during the Millennium and for all eternity, would not be the same one that He would implement within His own Body, the Church.
(Side note: Some might say from this, “What if the ministry goes ‘off the rails’ and begins to apostatize? You’re demanding that we follow them over a cliff and put them before God!” Please. 1 Cor. 11:1 is still in the Bible! Just because a wife is commanded to submit to her husband does not mean that she must murder, steal, etc. at his command, right? And yet, do such situations nullify God’s clear commands about government in marriage? Sincere questions about how one can determine that a government has abandoned God and, thus, abandoned its legitimacy can be profitable to discuss, and I enjoy such discussion — and, thankfully, the Bible gives us guidance and direction. But sadly questions like these are too often used to justify throwing out these principles, not understanding them more clearly. And that’s a shame.)
I know I’ve written about such things before, but seeing in print these principles at work in these two lawyers was encouraging. If they can get it, others can, too. Like gravity, God’s approach to government works whether you believe in it or not.