WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? / WHAT DID JESUS DO? –PART 1

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Meister des Hausbuches, 1475 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin).(from here)

Tuesday was election day. Since I engage in political activism, I am usually quite busy before an election. Since I am rarely enthusiastic about any of the candidates, not even the ones I support, I don’t get much motivation from them. I am just trying to keep the government from getting any bigger any faster than it already is. I don’t see politics or government as my salvation. I see excessive government as an obstruction to the salvation of my unsaved family, friends, and neighbors. Since I am struggling against something too big for me, I eventually reach the point where I am tired and looking forward to getting the election over with.

If it isn’t government or political activism, what is the solution? Who will save us? Jesus Christ, of course. But what does that mean? What do we have to do? Consider that question in the title of this post.

What would Jesus do?

I have learned to cringe whenever I hear that question. Why? That question too often comes from people with an agenda that has little to do with what Jesus actually did do. Most of us have no idea who Jesus is, but His name has power. If we can convince people Jesus would do something, we can get most people to go along with that something. That is the power of the Social Gospel, a movement that still has great influence among American Christians. In fact, I think belief in the Social Gospel has factored greatly in the increasing popularity of Socialism in the United States. Without the belief of many in the Social Gospel, I doubt the Democrats would be preaching Socialism.

What would Jesus do? (en.wikipedia.org) provides a history of the catchphrase, “What Jesus would do?” Charles Spurgeon first popularized it (He credited it to  Thomas à Kempis, from a book written between 1418 and 1427, Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ)). Spurgeon used the phrase in a sermon (see The Agreement Of Salvation By Grace With Walking In Good Works). Here is where Spurgeon used the phrase.

Moreover, that love moves us to patient imitation of Christ. Do you know what that means? “The Imitation of Christ” is a wonderful book upon the subject which every Christian should read. It has its faults, but its excellences are many. May we not only read the book, but write it out anew in our own life and character by seeking in everything to be like Jesus! It is a good thing to put up in your house the question, “What would Jesus do?” It answers nine out of 10 of the difficulties of moral casuistry. When you do not know what to do and the Law does not seem very explicit upon it, put it so—“What would Jesus do?” Here, then, stands the case—by your creation in Christ you come to exhibit faith in Him, love to Him and imitation of Him—and all these are the means by which good works are produced in you! You are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”

When did Spurgeon say we should ask, “What Jesus would do?” When we don’t know what Jesus commanded us to do, we should do our best to imagine what Jesus would do and be like Him. Spurgeon emphasized trying to understand the teachings of the Bible.

Unfortunately, advocates of the Social Gospel have appropriated the catchphrase.

Should we ask, “What would Jesus do?” Here are some popular articles that suggest that might not be a good idea.

  • Is “what would Jesus do?” (WWJD) something we should seek to live by? (gotquestions.org): Here the author points out we don’t know what Jesus would do, we don’t know the mind of Jesus, and we are not Jesus. Jesus is God.
  • What Would Jesus Do? (allaboutfollowingjesus.org): Here the author points out most of don’t know Jesus. That should make the question is irrelevant for most of us, but that does not stop the ignorant from trying to say they know the answer.
  • What Would Jesus Do? (tms.edu): Here the author suggests a substitute question.

    Hence, a better question for believers to ask themselves would be: “What Would Jesus Demand (that we do)?” What are His directives, His desires, His declarations, and His dictates?

So what did Jesus actually tell us to do?

John 14:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

15 “If you love Me,[a]keep My commandments.

What is wonderful about the Bible? Jesus told us His commandments and how to keep His commandments. He has told us how we can demonstrate our love and appreciation for Him. We can study the Bible and do what it says, and the amazing thing is that the Bible tells us to do what is good for us and each other.

So what is to come in the remaining posts in this series? Well, this series is going to be a discussion of the Social Gospel and what is wrong with it. However, most of us don’t know the history of the Social Gospel, and I am not interested in teaching that history. So what will we do? We will focus on the difference between obeying the Social Gospel and obedience to Christ Jesus.

 

45 thoughts on “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? / WHAT DID JESUS DO? –PART 1

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  1. I’m with you Tom, in that I too have always felt a little discomfort with this question. I also agree that the better question is not “what would Jesus do” but what does Jesus, as God, expect us, individually and as a group, to actually do here and now, rather than in some subjunctive sense. It seems to me that more specifically, however, you are posing this question with regard to government, and even more specifically, what actions and words Jesus expects of his modern day followers who are citizens and leaders in our present day representative democracy.

    In a sense, the answer to the question of what does Jesus want us to do is easy to understand and uncontroversial:

    Mathew 22
    34But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    The practice of this God given injunction to our daily lives is what is impossibly difficult and endlessly controversial. As you elude, Jesus is God, and He lived with perfect knowledge and sacrificial practice of this mandate. All the rest of us struggle. Well, at least I know that I do.

    Regardless of the difficulty and uncertainty of applying what we are enjoined by God to do in each complex and ambiguous dilemma, I see no reason why our actions as citizens and leaders in our government would be excluded. And if this God given mandate to love is to be applied to our civic life as it is applied to our family life or our church life or our working life or any other part of our lives, then the question is as such Christian civic actors in a representative democracy, how does Jesus expect us shape our government to be more and more of an expression of God’s Will that we love. I would also pose the hypothesis here that, compared to any other government in history, from its inception to the present moment, the US is an amazing and continuing example of this example of progress in the impossibly difficult effort to put into practice God’s mandate of love to our civic lives.

    Yes, like the human citizens that constantly shape our government, our democracy is sinful and corrupt, and always will be, but in history and in the present world compared to what?

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    1. @Tsalmon

      The Bible explains in considerable detail what that passage you quoted means.

      The problem with interpreting the Bible is that we usually want it to mean or fear it means something besides what it says.

      Consider just one word, love. You and I each have our own ideas about what it means to love someone. However, Jesus wants us to love as He loves us.

      John 15:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

      12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

      How do you think Jesus loves us? How does He demonstrate His love for us? How should we model our Lord? And what has that got to with government?

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      1. I don’t think that we have different ideas about how Jesus wanted us to love. I agree with you completely that that expression of love is both compassionate and sacrificial.

        What I don’t understand is why you think that that God given mandate to actively express such compassionate and sacrificial love should not be reflected in every aspect of our lives, whether it be as individuals, in our church groups, at work or as a citizen in our civic lives. Especially in a representative democracy where we have greater rights and responsibilities to positively affect our government, why wouldn’t our God given responsibility to act with love as Jesus showed us to act be even greater than it would be if some potentate, rather than “we the People”, were the sovereign? In a sense, unlike in Jesus’ time, we collectively are Caesar, in that we are not only are the governed but also the governor. In history this provides us with a unique privilege and awesome responsibility, not just to, as Jesus said, render unto our government what belongs to our government, but also to govern with love as Jesus would have us govern. Although I don’t clai to know the best way to do this in every complex and ambiguous dilemma of governing, how am I wrong in the basic concept? Don’t we agree that this mandate to love is the greatest Christian ethic, and the source and foundation of all other ethics? Although we may or may not disagree on the best way to express our responsibility to love in our civic lives, isn’t your effort here on this blog an attempt to apply what you believe is your Christian ethics to your civic political life?

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        1. @tsalmon

          Busy at the moment. I will respond in more detail later. Just an observation for now.

          Government exists to provide justice. That requires force, the ability to make people do what THEY DO NOT WANT TO DO.

          Government cannot love our neighbors for us. When we force our fellow citizens to lay down their lives for our family, friends, and neighbors, that is an abuse of power, not love.

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          1. I think the concept that government exists exclusively to meet out punishment is a bit reductionist and obviously just not true as a matter of theory or fact, but, like WWJD, it would probably look good on a bumper sticker. Governments obviously provide any number of public goods and services besides just protection, many of which are very popular.

            The fact that we the people afford our government sovereignty, and therefore coercive powers over us should definitely evoke a note of caution and a limitation on what powers we the people give to that government, but it is not an absolute determinative of either the types of powers we give government or the scope of those powers. For the common good, we obviously give government the power to press our bodies and our material goods into the defense of the nation, the building of roads and the provision of police and fire services, among many other public goods and services.

            The fact that “government does not love for us” is a non sequitur. A church or a charity does not love for us either, but our service and contribution to that organization can be an expression and manifestation of our individual and our collective love. You say that the ultimate expression of Christian love is to lay down one’s life for his brothers and his sisters. To say that government cannot be an expression of that love would be to say that every service person who gave his life for freedom did not also make this ultimate loving sacrifice. Maybe the government can’t love for us, but as much as possible, we can choose to make military service the expression and manifestation of love through honor, integrity sacrifice and service, or we can choose to make such government service corrupt. I think the same goes for every other type of government institution and government service.

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          2. @tsalmon

            See https://citizentom.com/2018/11/10/what-would-jesus-do-what-did-jesus-do-part-2/.

            Are there things government does and should do besides punishing people? Yes, but almost everything government does that it is necessary for government to do has to do with the maintenance of law and order.

            You want to feed, cloth, and shelter the poor? That is great! Jesus would approve if you do it yourself. When you twist someone else’s arm, that’s not loving your neighbor.

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          3. It’s kind of you to interpret Jesus’ approval and disapproval for me, but I prefer to let Jesus speak for himself through the Gospel if you don’t mind.

            I think we agree with what Jesus said in Mathew 22:34-40. You have pointed out from John 15:12-13 that the love that Jesus is describing is sacrificial love. The premise that I have presented is that we have a responsibility to try to act as we think God would have us act in every aspect of our lives including our civic lives. I am also saying that, as members of a representative democracy with power over our government, we have unique responsibilities because because in very real ways we are given powers citizen and sovereign. Do you disagree with any of this?

            Beyond that, it gets much more difficult, and I am not pretending to know with perfect certainty in every complex situation of a representative democracy when and where this basic Christian mandate is best carried out. I am not proposing that civic governmental action is the exclusive solution to every dilemma of how to feed, cloth and shelter the poor, but so far at least, I find unconvincing your argument that it would be immoral for to do this through civic action.

            What I am saying is that through civic progress modern democracies all over the world have been quiet successful in eliminating poverty, disease and inequality. Before we decide to tear down every civic institution that has played a part in this human progress, perhaps we should objectively measure the progress and count our blessings.

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          4. @tsalmon

            Your relationship with God is personal. God will judge you. We can judge another’s behavior, but we don’t know enough to do more.

            The Bible is a book. We can read it, and for the most part we can understand the Bible. When my interpretation of a passage does not make sense to you, you should be able to explain why.

            I think we agree with what Jesus said in Mathew 22:34-40. You have pointed out from John 15:12-13 that the love that Jesus is describing is sacrificial love. The premise that I have presented is that we have a responsibility to try to act as we think God would have us act in every aspect of our lives including our civic lives. I am also saying that, as members of a representative democracy with power over our government, we have unique responsibilities because because in very real ways we are given powers citizen and sovereign. Do you disagree with any of this?

            We have a fundamental disagreement. Sacrificial love involves self-sacrifice, not sacrificing someone else. I suppose I will get into that in Part 3.

            What is the problem with the government redistributing the wealth? It is stealing, not an act of sacrificial love. When people start coveting what belongs to others, and they discover they can use government to get what belongs to others, corruption is inevitable. No matter how noble our intentions, that is, our end, we still have to be careful about the means we choose to achieve our intentions.

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          5. Tom,

            You seem to be saying that our duty to God is an individual sport, like running against only a clock, but everything that I know about the Bible tells me that it is very much written to give illustration to and set the rules to a team sport. I think that, if one of us individually lived alone marooned on an island somewhere, then one’s relationship to God would only be personal and individual. However, I don’t believe that that is how it works for us as a community of God and in God. By definition, our love is expressed and manifested through community.

            Any reading of the previously cited passages demonstrates that we manifest our duty to God in our relations with others. We do God’s work as the Body of Christ in groups and as groups. Those groups may be churches or charities or business organizations or they may be in our civic lives in government. Whether our calling is to serve God as a military member, a church member, a janitor at a corporation, a city council member, a citizen taxpayer or all of the above, I think it is our Christian responsibility in all those roles to carry out God’s will to love with compassion, service and sacrifice.

            I also think that you again may be being too reductionist in your reading of John 15:12-13. Sacrifice of life is the highest form of sacrifice and there is no higher example of that sacrifice than that of Jesus and His crucifixion and death. However, taken in the context of so many passages of the Bible that I know you are familiar with, it is obvious that all love that is manifested in service and sacrifice is the love that Jesus is referring to. Jesus points out the Good Samaritan as a specific example of the commandment to love one’s neighbor. The Samaritan, although he gave and risked much, did not go so far as to give up his life. Saying that the “love” God commanded is solely defined as love that sacrifices one’s life sets so high a bar that none of us will meet it and makes all other service and sacrifice in love meaningless. I defines away our responsibility by saying that since none of us can meet the bar that Jesus met, none of us has the God given responsibility to even try. Don’t you think that that is nonsense?

            When city leaders, educators and businesspersons join together in service and sacrifice of their time to improve their schools so that all the children in that city are afforded the equal opportunity to a good education, then I at least, cannot help but see them as following what Protestants referred to as their “calling” to do God’s work. Does that mean that those that most reap the benefits of a highly educated work force or of good roads or of strong fire and police protection are also forced to contribute their fair share to those improvements whether they appreciate the moral importance of their sacrifice or not? Yes, because it is the morally right thing to do, because, otherwise those free riding reprobates are essentially stealing benefits from the community that they belong to. Don’t you think that that is the theft that you ought to be worried about?

            People who do not pay their workers a fair wage for the work that they do are thieves. Particularly wealth off people like you and I, who live in a community and most enjoy the benefits of a community, a state or a nation, but who do not pay their fair share for the general progress, education, protection and improvement of that community, state or nation are thieves. Corporations who charge extortion level prices for life saving drugs are thieves. People who use government to promote crony capitalism and enrich themselves at taxpayer expense are thieves. People who promote phony private universities that take their student’s and the taxpayer’s money, but don’t actually train people for a work life are thieves. Perhaps we should worry a little less about calling hardworking public school teachers and dedicated public servants “thieves’ and instead concentrate on these real thieves in our midst. But then again, what is the Republican Party of Trump these days but a den of corrupt thieves?

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          6. @tsalmon

            Well, I now know the scripture I will cite for Parts 4 and 5.

            Think about meaning of agape love.
            => https://www.compellingtruth.org/agape-love.html
            => https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html

            When we have Utopian notions, what are we about? We are trying to devise a system that compels people to do the “right thing” the “right way” for the “right reasons”. If there was a way to do such thing, don’t you think Jesus would have made it so?

            What did Jesus do instead? He gave us each a choice. Then He gave us the example of His own choice.

            Agape love is a choice. It is a voluntary act.

            Do you understand agape love? Don’t think so. For example, you use the word calling. Socialist states don’t permit people to respond to a calling. In a Socialist state, the government knows what is best. So in a Socialist state the government tells you what to do, what your “calling” is.

            Because of the fact Socialism is a Utopian dream, it must eliminate choice. Utopian dreams cannot tolerate agape love.

            Yet because agape love does not come to us naturally we must have government. Otherwise, none of us will have any rights. So we must organize to protect each others rights and force everyone to participate in the maintenance of law and order. Because men are not angels to do otherwise would be a greater evil.

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          7. Where did I say that I wanted collectivist totalitarianism? Why do you always throw up that that straw boogeyman to debate with?

            The United States, as well as most of the most prosperous nations with the most prosperous citizenry in the world right now are places that have both generous public goods and services and a thriving market system. My whole working life has been blessed by the amazing catalyzing benefits of the rise of that combination in 20th Century America. In contrast, if I or you had been born at any other time or place in the history of civilization, as Hobbes wrote, the extreme likelihood is that our lives would have been nasty, brutish and short.

            The real issue is not whether we should have totalitarian collectivism or anarchistic individualism. That’s a dumb argument for either side. The issue is what imperfect, dynamic and ever changing combination and mix of the virtuous individual spirit and the virtuous community spirit can give us the most progress and improvement in affording more people lives of productive dignity and reducing unnecessary suffering. It’s not Utopian or deterministic, but it is unabashedly progressive. The opposite of such optimistic but pragmatic and idealistic progressivism isn’t virtuous realism – it is ideological hopelessness and grievance based cynicism. Which do you think is truly the most Christian outlook and reflects God’s Will that we love and care for one another?

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          8. @tsalmon

            Instead of defending your own position, you are trying to define the terms of the discussion. Sigh!

            As the founders observe, we have a choice. We either limit the size of our government or it our government dominates our lives.

            Are you for collectivist totalitarianism? When you vote for people who stand for collectivist totalitarianism — when you argue for unrestrained government power — why should I think anything else?

            When you make the arguments you make, you never pose a natural limits to government power. You just argue for more government than our Constitution ever authorized. As far as I can tell, the Constitution means whatever you want it to mean. And your excuse? Everyone else is doing it. Like I said before, we did not let our children get away with that one.

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          9. @tsalmon

            Do you support collectivist totalitarianism? Well, here is a thought for you.

            Small r republicanism is based upon the belief that we have God-given rights, that we each belong to God. Therefore, even the majority is not allowed to violate our rights. That belief helps to define the limits of government power.

            You have said you believe government gives us our rights. Do we belong to government? What is the origin of our rights. How do you define the limits of government power?

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          10. When you have no answer to the obvious evidence that we, you and I and most Americans, bask in the working benefits of a the dynamic combination and balance of governmental protection and advancement of both the virtuous individual spirit and of virtuous community action, you just prop up the usual straw m n to change the topic.

            I have never said that there are no God given rights. I simply don’t know. I know that there are God given responsibilities. You have never been able to find such a direct statement of rights in the Bible and I have in the past cited theological scholars who say that such rights are a 16th and 17th Century invention that no one in the 1st Century up until that point (including Saint Paul) would have recognized. I do believe that, in the progress of living up to our God given responsibilities, we should afford people rights, so I think that it is quite possible that God given rights may be indirectly, extrinsicly and implicitly created through the individual and community exercise of those God given responsibilities. Here’s the question you never answer when you say that God, not government, affords us certain intrinsic rights: Even assuming such divine rights exist and are somehow clearly definable, where in history have such rights actually existed in practice without those rights being defined, arbitatable and enforceable at law by government power, with the Bill of Right being a perfect example? Even if I concede the argument that certain rights are God given (again, I simply don’t know), it takes government to engender those rights into a practical, working reality. By constantly bringing up this inane argument, you are simply deflecting to an ideological fantasy in order not to face that simple historical reality, but it does change the subject.

            As for me being in favor of the totalitarian collective state, that’s just dishonest strawmanning, because you know me and my life, you also know better. I spent the majority of my military career in a Cold War with just such a collectivist State. I’ve spent most of my civilian life actively and happily working in a profit based, market system. However, as I’ve said before, there simply is no such baseball game as a market based system without government to define the playing field, write the rules and umpire the game. There simply is no practical or moral either/or pure collectivist or individualist equation. History and the world that surrounds you stares us in the face bears withness to the reality that moral and material progress is an imperfect and dynamic working combination of both.

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          11. Your other usual straw man is to say that I am for unlimited government, which is pretty much the same as saying that I am for the totalitarian collectivist state. This is the same sort of demagoguery as saying that, if I think we should balance the practical against the humane in our immigration policies, then I must be for open borders. What nonsense!

            I enjoy the debate. I’d love to see where there is at least some agreement and compromise. We do actually share more values in common than we have differences, even if we both do love to argue. If this always has to devolve into shouting past one another at boogeymen of our own creation then it is only the quest for truth that suffers.

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          12. @tsalmon

            We could argue until doomsday about the economy. If we go back to the 18th century, it is fairly obvious that America had a very prosperous society. Was that due to limited government, the relative absence of graft, the abundance of resources, or something else? Whatever it was, I don’t think things are better now because politicians take money from some people and give it to other people.

            What does the Bible say about human rights? I suppose I ought to make that Part 6 in this series. Anyway, here is an example.

            Exodus 20:13-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
            13 “You shall not murder.

            14 “You shall not commit adultery.

            15 “You shall not steal.

            16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

            17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

            That passage is from the Ten Commandments in Exodus. We are not suppose to murder, take each other’s spouses, rob each other, lie, or even wish each other ill. We innately know harming another person without cause is wrong.

            Why do we need a government to enforce people’s God-given rights? You may as well ask why God permits evil. Why do we live in a fallen world and not the Kingdom of Heaven? Why do we sin instead of always doing what is right? Does the fact we sin mean there is no difference between good and evil? Does the fact we need government to maintain law and order mean government gives us all good things?
            Are you in favor of a totalitarian collective state? As a practical matter? I doubt you understand the consequences of what you support, but it is how you vote, and it is the end result of what you are advocating.

            You can call what you vote for Progressivism, but that is just ironic. Progressivism has led to progressively bigger and more powerful government.

            I asked you to straightforwardly explain how your ideology places a limit on the growth of government. You did not answer.

            Does the Progessive ideology put a limit on the growth of government? No. At best the Progressive ideology demands an optimal solution, the best result for the least amount of government, but that’s like inviting a camel’s nose into a tent.

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          13. 16th Century America was prosperous? Prosperous for whom? One third of the nation lived in bondage. A good many more lived in indentured servitude. Half the population, the female half, had little right to own or decide anything. Because well off, white, intellectual men did all the writing and deciding, our history is rather narrow and romanticized in this regard. We all imagine ourselves one of those white, well off, intellectual men in that world, while the actual reality was, to quote Hobbes again, nasty, brutish and short, for most people. Of course we have progressed through government. The Constitution itself was governmental progress. The post Civil War Amendments were governmental progress.

            I’m not saying that all American progress was due to progress in government. Obviously, there were many vectorial forces: economic, scientific, technological, sociological, religious. But you must admit that progress in government had to be an important factor, if not THE most important factor.

            As for limited government, yes I’m for it. Who do you know that is for either extreme of unlimited government or the failed state?

            What are the limitations on government? They too are many, complex and changing. They include numerous checks and balances such as separation of powers, federalism, elections, market economics, unions, having two political parties, etc., etc., etc.

            Despite these limitations, government has expended immensely even within the areas where you and I might have little disagreement as to whether government normatively should have the need to expand. We have the largest military in the world by more than 10 times. Our Defense Department is the single largest organization in the world. Patent and intellectual property laws and governmental institutions were nearly nonexistent two centuries ago. Corporations and corporate governance laws and institutions also went from nonexistent to ubiquitous. The dual courts system (State and Federal) we have in this country is enormous. At the time of the founding, all the Supreme Court Justices individually road a huge circuit on horseback and personally decided federal cases and controversies.

            That our founders and framers could not have imagined any of this expansion in even the areas of government that you and I might agree on goes without saying, and who knows, if they were suddenly alive today and had all the facts, whether or not they would have approved? I tend to think so. Just looking at the checks and balances that they installed in the Constitution it is obvious that the founders were practical pragmatists perhaps much more than they were starry eyed idealists.

            So yes, Tom, I think that we can agree that the founders created limited government. It is the scope of those limitations that we don’t always agree on. And Hell, if you know as much about history as I think you do, then you also know that the Founders, before the ink on the Constitution was dry, were also disagreeing vehemently and fighting like cats and dogs about the scope of those limitations. You do realize how nasty it got between Adams’ and Jefferson’s advocates about just this very subject? Many didn’t think that our nation would last until the turn of the Century because of these arguments. We almost didn’t survive a bloody Civil War over to a great extent this same federal powers argument. The winners wrote post Civil War Amendments to the Constitution that again changed the argument. The fact that you and I sometimes disagree on governmental powers is hardly Earth shattering. Heck, people who actually know what they are talking about in this regard mightily and constantly disagree. They are called Supreme Court Justices. The fact that we let these Constitutional institutions arbitrate and decide is what makes our nation great and historic, not that we always agree. What fun would that be?

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          14. @tsalmon

            I said the 18th century. I also don’t intend talk endlessly about it. It is a distraction. You know as well as I do you can’t prove anything, but discussing the economy will allow you to avoid the moral question.

            Go back to my last comment. Consider the moral issue. Do you believe RIGHT makes MIGHT or MIGHT makes RIGHT? Don’t you realize you are arguing for the latter? Is that what gives you the right to impose your version of Utopia — your religious beliefs — on others using the government?

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          15. Who are you talking to? When did I get so almighty powerful that I personally get to impose anything on anyone? I have told you that I don’t believe a Utopia is possible in a fallen and finite world so exactly who is pushing a Utopian determinism and what does it look like?

            The issue you presented is WWJD. i agree with you that a better way to frame the question is “How would Jesus expect us to act”. I am simply saying that, in every aspect of our lives, including our civic lives in a democratic republic, I think Jesus would expect us to act with love. If government, as one form of community action, can be a vehicle (and often in some situations either the best and even only vehicle) for expressing that love, then I don’t see any reason why we would not use it. If you want to discuss a specific situation, then I’ll be happy to. I might not know enough about the issue to have an informed opinion, or I might even agree with you that there are better, less coercive means of solving the problem than through government. I might think that some limited government effort applicable. In a general sense, however, saying that somehow our civic lives are not a part of our Christian lives seems to be taking secularism to just the extreme that you would normally balk at.

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          16. @tsalmon

            Still balking. Armies of words repeated again and again.

            We are suppose to give our lives to God, not to compartmentalize our lives. If you use the government to take what belongs to one person and give it to another, especially yourself, how does that differ from stealing? You don’t have an answer.

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          17. First of all, I don’t actually get to decide these things. Like you, I vote and, if my vote is part of a majority, then my choice for representative represents his views, every single one of which I may or may not either be perfectly knowledgeable about or endorse if I am. You should stop giving me quite so much power, knowlege or affiliation to any of your grand conspiracies.

            I do have a question though. If the government taking someone’s money to pay for public goods and services that we all benefit from is always stealing, then is it stealing for a government to force Americans to fulfill their civic responsibility to support the mutual defense of our freedoms?

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          18. @tsalmon

            You get decide how you and whether you will let someone buy your vote. You get to decide whether you will shame, harass and get in the face of people who don’t vote the way you vote. You get to decide whether you will hold the people you vote for accountable to the original intent of the words in the Constitution.

            I have addressed your question before. Unfortunately, we are full of ourselves. We usually spend more time reading our own words than we do someone else’s words.

            We need government because we are so poorly behaved. We are dangerous to each other.

            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. — James Madison

            We create and maintain a government to protect each other from each other.

            When we start using our government to rob each other, that is a betrayal of our countrymen. When we subvert the Constitution, claim powers it does grant, we lie and violate our oathes. Then we prove the wisdom of Madison’s words. Then we demonstrate that what what the Bible says is true.

            Romans 3:10-12 Good News Translation (GNT)
            10 As the Scriptures say:

            “There is no one who is righteous,
            11 no one who is wise
            or who worships God.
            12 All have turned away from God;
            they have all gone wrong;
            no one does what is right, not even one.

            Most of the money the Federal Government spends comes from the young and is spent on the old. The young don’t vote. The old do. So politicians calculate accordingly. With a few sob stories they “help” the old rob their own children and grandchildren.

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          19. BTW, I like the way that you put that this time, that we are “supposed” to give our lives to God, rather than how you put it earlier, that our lives “belong” to God. I must admit that I often seek grace in understanding this concept. It seems to me that God gave us the free will, even to deny Him. Also, a small epiphany came to me recently that giving oneself over to God is not the same thing as perfect omniscience of God’s Will for our actions and our words in every situation. This I think is, not so much giving ourselves to God, as giving ourselves over to prideful self righteousness. Instead, I’ve come to believe that perhaps giving oneself over to God is to give oneself over to love, but that still does not mean that we pretend to know what is the most loving way to act in every complex and ambiguous situation. As you know, like many in our generation, I can be pretty opinionated, but it seems to me that giving oneself over to God means taking a large dose of humility that we are not God and to try to speak the truth, even about our own ignorance. Which is worse do you think? Uncertainty of God’s Will in every ambiguous and complex situation, or pretending such certainty?

            Liked by 1 person

          20. @Tsalmon

            Here is the best answer I have.

            1 Peter 4:7-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
            Serving for God’s Glory
            7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the [a]oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the [b]dominion forever and ever. Amen.

            Liked by 1 person

          21. I agree with much of your last comment. What I think you may be missing in my comments, perhaps, as you say because we don’t really always carefully read the other person’s opinion enough to take it in and walk around with it for a while, is that the greatest enemy of our constitutional system isn’t the practical and moral ideological uncertainty that leads to disagreement. Representative democracy thrives on raucous disagreement.

            Congress disagrees with the president, and checks him. The SCOTUS disagrees with Congress and the POTUS and checks them both. The president tries to check the Court by appointing a blind ideologue and the Senate checks both POTUS and SCOTUS by insisting that the nominee be reasonably neutral and juries prudential. One political party disagrees with the other and (as in this last election) wins the vote and checks that other party by taking over the House and/or the Senate and/or POTUS. A state disagrees with the federal government and tries its own solution. That state’s solution does not comport with the equal protection or due process clauses of the 14th Amendment and the federal government checks that state.

            Constant moral and practical ideological disagreement is not a bug in our system – it is a fixture. I know I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know about how constitutional checks also acts as check on systemic tyranny, but what I ask that you also think about is how our Constitution also acts as a pragmatic process check on the inherently corrupting effects ideological tyranny, whether that ideological tyranny be religious or philosophical.

            No, Tom, in my opinion the enemy of our constitutional democracy is not ideological conflict, it is too much ideological certainty. Too much pride in our own ideological certainty so that we are unwilling to compromise, to be measured, to be incremental, to allow the progress of letting our ideological vision of perfect not be the enemy of maybe just a little better, all of which allow the “balance” portion of our constitutional process of checks and balances. Too much prideful ideological certainty so that we sacrifice the constitutional process at the altar of the idol of our ideology. Too much pride of ideological certainty that we try to pack the court or hold a qualified presidential nominee without consideration for a year, or gerrymander away and suppress the vote, or go into wars without a declaration from Congress, or not enforce the validly passed laws of the land, or ignore the rulings of the SCOTUS, or gridlock every law and legal reform, or sign unconstitutional executive orders because Congress won’t fulfill its constitutional role, or any of hundreds of systemically corrupting practices that ideologues from both sides are doing that put the their own ideological certainty above the constitutional process that they swear an oath to support and defend.

            I agree with your Madison quote, but I ask that you consider reading it a little differently. We need a government of checks and balances because only angels can really have ideological certainty. On the other hand, we humans need to be protected from our own pride that in a complex, ambiguous, finite and fallen world, we know with exact certainty what Jesus would have us do on virtually every issue, including the exact practical and moral limits of a limited government and including how to always act with sacrificial love, both as individuals and in our civic lives, as a citizen of a government.

            If we are to be humble in our giving ourselves over to God in love, we need to start from premise that we don’t and can’t know more about every single issue than we actually do and that, even if we are quite knowledgeable, we will probably screw it up and there will undoubtedly be unintended consequences, but this does not relieve us of the God given responsibility to constantly with love, in every aspect of our lives, including our civic lives, try, try, try.

            I’m sure you will agree that I’ve written enough words on this, and believe it or not, that’s really all I have to say on this topic, so unless you desire me to bore you further, we can either agree or agree to disagree and you can tell me I’m wrong. Because I’ve premised that the pride of certainty is the greatest enemy of our democracy, then I have to concede up front that I probably am wrong, or at that I am not certain on everything.😉

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          22. I know I said that I would shut up, but I just read your quote from the Bible. My compliments. It seems perfect and I will think about it for quite a while.👍

            Liked by 1 person

    2. So if we accept the premise that we are to try to practice God’s mandate to love in our civic lives just as in every other area of our lives, and if we recognize our historically unique position to individually shape our government as citizens of a representative democracy, then the question becomes what kind of government does Jesus expect us to create? Is it an expression of love in civic practice to promote greater equality of justice? To insure a more fair market distribution of the fruits of our labors? To fight corruption? To protect rich and poor alike from those from within and without who would wrongfully harm them? To balance an individual’s right to be make his or her own choices (even bad choices) against that individual’s responsibilities to his community and to his nation? To provide living social safety nets to the poor, the meek, the old and the infirm?

      I don’t see bright lines in any of these questions. Obviously, the absolute collective approach to our Christian civic responsibility to love, even when well intentioned, is fraught with practical difficulties and the likelihood of abuse, just as absolute individualism also is.

      Except at the extremes, civic promotion both of individual rights and collective responsibility is an imperfect balance between competing virtues. As partisan ideologues, we forget this, but, in my opinion, if we are actually arguing at the middle ground between conflicting individual rights and social responsibilities, we are probably as close to God’s perfect sweet spot in our expression of love in our civic life as we will ever get in this ever changing finite and fallen world as we are likely to get.

      We should never stop the effort, either because we’ve lost hope of progress or because we’ve become complacent in our accomplishments, but in our endless arguments over this or that present controversy and in our dread of a dark future, don’t you think sometimes we should take stock of just how far we’ve come, as a nation, in creating a government that attempts to fulfil our God given civic responsibilities to love? In our history as a nation, our forefathers founded a lasting republic, ended its original sin of slavery and eventually Jim Crow, established workers’ rights that began the largest increase in average prosperity in the history of mankind, and stopped the evil of nationalist fascism and then totalitarian communism from spreading. Until the second coming, the struggle to put God’s mandate to love into civic practice will not end, and it may be set back generations, but only a despairing lack of the virtue of hope or an abundance of the vice of pride will cause us to either not realize how far we have progressed or to feel that further progress is not possible.

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  2. The question is, “What Would Jesus Do?”

    I think I might offer some thoughts that might help to resolve the issue. (Notice that I said, “Might.”)

    I believe that “What Jesus Would Do” is best understood by paying attention to what He actually did do.

    I do not believe that Jesus “Would Do” any more or less than He did do or what He instructed His Disciples to do.

    The things that Jesus did, said and taught are complete within the pages of inspired Scripture and there is no more and no less than what one can hold in one’s own hands in the person of The Holy Bible; particularly “The New Testament.”

    We are warned against adding to the Word or detracting from it.

    The whole final message from God to all Mankind is contained within the Person of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, The Holy Bible and “The New Covenant” of The New Testament.

    I see no specific instructions in the Bible about how we should vote when we go to the polls in elections but there are a few issues that the Bible addresses that might be used in helping us to arrive at a decision as to who we will vote for and how we would vote on issues:

    Character and integrity:
    “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people mourn…The king by judgment establishes the land but he that receives gifts overthrows it…If a ruler listens to lies, all his servants are wicked” (Proverbs 29:2, 4, 12).

    Sanctity of human life—abortion, stem cell research using human embryos:
    “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

    Same-sex marriage or civil unions among same-sex couples:
    “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22)

    Freedom for religious speech:
    “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-20).

    Racial equality:
    “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).
    “…and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God” (Revelation 5:9-10).

    National Security:
    “And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night” (Nehemiah 4:8-9).

    Taxation and government spending:
    “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards…we are forcing our sons and daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards” (Nehemiah 5:4-5).

    Of course, we are addressing a discussion in this topical context that probably will never have resolution as long as Men and Women have free wills but these are some of the things I believe would assist the honest Christian in forming his conscience to vote.

    In my own case, I would prefer just to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s because my eternal salvation nor the eternal salvation of myself or my loved ones or the generations that shall issue forth from me depends in one white or one iota or one jor or tittle on what happens in The Government of The United States — I am looking for another city … a city that is not built by the hand of man …. In that city there is no such thing as a voting booth because Christ is a King and Heaven will not be at all democratic in structure or in daily operations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Something I’ve always found interesting, the answer to WWJD, is actually handle it Himself, personally. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, preached to the sheep. So when you see something that pricks your conscience or conviction, your job is to personally do something. People are healed by relationships, from mentoring, from discipling, from being loved. You’re authorized, Jesus Himself said “you will do what I do and even greater.” But enter this cultural thing where “the personal is political,” and WWJD suddenly becomes, “pass the problem off to our government, insist they take money from other people,and solve the problem in a way that makes ME feel better about it.”

    Kind of ironic,where I live you can get a free meal at least five days a week, from assorted churches getting together to feed people. Our local Gov has spent at least the last 30 years spending a great deal of money and lamenting the poverty problem. Near as anyone can tell, nobody has ever really benefited from their efforts. So WWJD? Well, I think He just might go to a City Council mtg and throw over a few tables, chase people around with a whip perhaps? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. @IB

      Spot on! Jesus delegated some things to His apostles. Hoever, Jesus is God, and He had things to that only God can do. There was not much He could give them to do. They could not die on a cross for everyone’s sins, for example.

      What the Social Gospel would have us do is substitute government for Jesus. When we stop to think about that, that is not a good deal. We can depend upon Jesus. We cannot depend upon government.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for this, Tom. I look forward to this series. The church is at a point where there is so much about me stuff, rather than about Jesus. We need to know how he lived so we know how to live. Jesus led a perfect life. He never sinned even though tempted. He is our ultimate example. If we want to get our churches active again, we must reveal the truth of the Gospel and what Jesus did to set all of us free from hell.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am very much looking forward to this series of posts!

    I myself am not familiar with Social Gospel, but it definitely has the flavor of a slick-haired politician trying to sucker well-meaning Christians into going along with their political agenda, something that makes me sick.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tom,

    Great question.

    Frankly, you may interpret or interpolate your thoughts based on the Bible what Jesus might do. Look forward to your series.

    I am now writing g a post titled, Interpret or Interpolate, Wisdom or Folly, which will be based on proverbs and wise sayings. There is a one-word difference, in my opinion, to keep in mind when any person expresses their opinion and interprets or interpolates an issue.

    I am confident your series will not qualify to meet the description of the word.

    Regards and good will blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

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