Do the People Share Responsibility with the Rulers?
IF THE nations collide with God there will inevitably be great destruction. But if religious and political leaders are in the forefront in antagonizing God, why should the people suffer?
Well, can we put the blame on rulers alone? No. That a government merely reflects the people it governs is acknowledged by men of affairs. “Every country has the government it deserves,” was the way Joseph de Maistre, a French diplomat living at the turn of the nineteenth century, expressed the idea. And William Penn, British statesman, taught: “Governments rather depend upon men, than men upon Governments. Let men be good, and the Government cannot be bad. If it be ill they will cure it, but if men be bad, let the Government be ever so good, they will endeavor to warp and spoil it to their turn.” With this the Bible agrees, as far as the matter applies to man-made governments.
Even in Israel, where God’s law was the nation’s ‘constitution,’ both the rulers and the people of Israel became guilty and suffered. The reason was, as Jehovah said: “The prophets themselves actually prophesy in falsehood; and as for the priests, they go subduing according to their powers. And my own people have loved it that way.”
In Christendom, which claims to be God’s people, his holy nation, the same situation exists. So God’s words to Israel apply with equal force to Christendom now: “Should I not hold an accounting because of these very things, . . . or on a nation that is like this should not my soul avenge itself?”—Jer. 5:29-31.
In the field of religion, have not the people listened to men rather than to God? They have the Bible and can read it, yet they have continued to belong to and support the churches where false teachings about God and rejection of his Word have been taught, where dishonest and immoral men have gone uncorrected, and where even the God-denying theory of evolution has been accepted. Can God be pleased with this?
WORLD GOVERNMENTS CANNOT CURE EARTH’S ILLS
It is acknowledged by men of prominence that the governments cannot eliminate the numerous ills that beset the world: crime, the drug epidemic, venereal disease, pollution and other serious threats to humankind. Why not? Because to eliminate these the people themselves must give full cooperation, must keep the law wholeheartedly, must give consideration to their neighbors and, instead of showing selfishness and greed, must practice real love. But this is not the case.
Righteousness cannot be inculcated in the people by the governments. Selfishness is so ingrained that no educational program designed by worldly agencies will eliminate it. Programs that are set up, such as welfare, rehabilitation, and so forth, are eventually ruined because of favoritism, selfishness, bribery and corruption. (Eccl. 1:15) The people themselves therefore bear a large share of the responsibility.
All these conditions that affect the people physically and socially are actually a reflection of the bad spiritual condition that exists. The Bible likens the spirit that is ‘breathed’ by the people of the world to the air of our atmosphere. This spirit or dominating force, the world’s attitude or inclination, is a spirit of disobedience. (Eph. 2:2) It pervades and exercises pressure all around us, as does the air. In the Bible book of Revelation God’s anger is shown as being ‘poured out upon the air,’ as a ‘plague.’ Certainly the spirit that motivates the world in general is a ‘sick’ spirit and its sickness is now manifesting itself in literal plagues of deterioration in all the activities of modern society.—Rev. 15:1; 16:17.
AN ENTIRE SYSTEM OF THINGS MUST GO
God, in viewing mankind from His superior position, sees this and realizes that no one group or element is alone to blame. Rather, the entire system of things as it exists today has people ‘locked’ into a way of life that makes it very difficult for anyone to avoid going along with it. It is the system that has to be replaced. It cannot be swerved to go in another direction, any more than a locomotive can turn off its rails and go across the country. Jesus Christ showed that the system of things of this world would come to a “conclusion” under the circumstances we see in the earth today.
Some feel that the only way of survival is to go along with the system of things and its dishonest principles. But this abandonment of right principles brings one into sharing responsibility for its wickedness, with destruction ahead. However, no one needs to feel unavoidably impelled to go along with this system. God holds each individual responsible for his acts. Therefore he provides a way out for those who really are willing to follow a straight, clean course of life. (Zeph. 2:3; 1 Cor. 10:13) He is preeminently a God of love. His loving-kindness is the subject we will next consider.