Faculty View | Ah, The Good Life!
by Peter Hill, Visiting Professor of Political Science
Every couple of years, the silly season of political campaigns chokes out competing narratives on airwaves, paper, and screens. I am both amused and bemused by what the candidates say. All of them present a vision, often utopian, of the good life. They offer an attractive picture of how wonderful life would be if only we granted them power for a while. It is a two-year-long commercial. Some of us have little buyer resistance while others have a good deal of buyer remorse.
Slogans are a staple of political campaigns and movements. A slogan articulates a vision of the good life. The Bolsheviks coined the slogan “Bread, Land, and Peace!,” the French used “Liberty, Fraternity, Égalité!” to inspire revolution, and Abraham Lincoln ran on the promise “Vote Yourself A Farm and Horses.” The Old Testament has its own aspirational slogans and its own visions of the good life. If we compare Jehovah’s kingship to a political campaign, He ran on the platform of “Justice, Peace, and Righteousness!”
Justice and peace are a common part of revolutionary rhetoric. Both of those are good objects, of course, which Christians ought to work toward in whatever sphere of activity God has placed them, whether an employer, teacher, prosecutor, mother, soldier, or deacon. We work to restore and renew what was damaged and lost in the Fall, witness to those who are not reconciled to or redeemed by God, and repair injuries to people and things. That is our job until Jesus returns and makes everything new. But the Bible adds a third element which we usually do not think of in the public sphere of government. It adds “Righteousness” to the mixture. How is that for a campaign slogan! “Peace!” (Roar of approval.) “Justice!” (Cacophony of enthusiasm.) “Righteousness! (Puzzled murmurs.)
Kings have more than slogans. They have thrones. Mad King Ludwig had a beautiful throne room in Neuschwanstein Castle. Louis XIV had a magnificent throne at Versailles. The Qing emperors had several different thrones in the Forbidden City. But God’s throne is the most impressive.
“The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.”
God’s throne rests upon the beautiful, unshakable foundation of righteousness and justice. God’s vision of the good life is one where people are right and do what is right. We even have glimpses of the good life during Israel’s history. I Kings 4:25 says, “During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.” The picture is pastoral, peaceful, idyllic, and safe, with external security provided by the king, and income security provided by the man’s labor, farm, and vineyard. No one invaded to cut his trees. No one stole the literal fruit of his labor. He worked in peace and enjoyed his work products in quiet.
Whether or not we are afforded moments like this in our lifetime, God has promised it will be part of our future as His children. Isaiah tells us that when the Spirit has been poured out in His fullness
“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field,
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness, and trust forever.”
ISAIAH 32: 16-17
I am disquieted during political campaigns. I desire to see peace, justice, and righteousness now. As a retired soldier, I seek peace. As a lawyer, I seek justice. As a Christian, I seek righteousness. But in the here and now, I will always be disappointed in the result. That causes me to look forward to the consummation when God ushers in the good life by setting everything right.
But here’s a secret you already know. You don’t have to wait. As citizens, we can affect the public sphere by doing what is right. We can also have an immediate influence in the areas of life where God has called us. We can start pursuing peace, justice, and righteousness right now whether we are an employer, teacher, prosecutor, mother, soldier, or deacon. Carve out an area and reclaim it for the earth’s great King!