- Pastor John
An Appeal to the Lesser Magistrate
Now that the dust has settled for the mid-term elections, this is not the time for us to sit on our laurels.
Sure, many of us can pat ourselves on the back for voting in the “Red Wave” and celebrate local political victories, yet our job is not over.
Now, we must hold them accountable to do what they are called to do.
The men and women that now occupy seats in the Senate, House, especially those of the lesser magistrate, are in office to uphold their sacred duty before God and men.
The “lesser magistrate” is a term that most, in my experience, are unfamiliar with. “Magistrate” is defined as any civil or judicial officer who administers the law. “Lesser” as opposed to “higher” is reference to state and local governments. In other words, governmental agencies that are not at a Federal level.
These lesser magistrates have been ordained by God to protect their local citizenry from anyone or any entity that would seek to tyrannize, oppress or destroy the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their job is to interpose—to stand in the gap between the oppressor and the oppressed. If need be, this interposition requires disobedience to unjust or immoral laws.
All this talk of lesser magistrates and interposition may seem like language that should only be confined to the realm of politics and certainly a minister of the gospel has no say in the matter. After all, we should only “preach the gospel” and limit our Christianity to the four walls of a sanctuary, right?
We are experiencing the consequences of ghettoizing Christianity. The increase of moral decay, apathy and corruption in all forms is due in part because the voice of the Church has been shut up within their chapels.
However, the doctrine of the lesser magistrate as well as interposition roots itself within the pages of Scripture. John Knox, the famous Scottish reformer, cited over 70 Biblical references in regards to the role and responsibility of the lesser magistrate when he appealed to Scottish nobles for them to protect its citizens from the abuses of the Crown. John Calvin, theologian and reformer, devotes the last chapter of his book Institutes of Christian Religion to the role of civil government, drawing from over 50 Biblical citations to make the case that all authority is delegated by God and those in power have a duty to uphold God’s law.
These two Christian pastors, along with many others didn’t appeal to secular political sciences to inform their view on government, rather they turned to the pages of the Bible.
A Biblical example of the lesser magistrate “standing in the gap” between the people and an unjust law is found in the account of Daniel. Many of us are familiar with the story of Daniel and the lion’s den found in Daniel chapter 6 but we often gloss over the part of why he was thrown into the den of lions in the first place.
Daniel, a Jewish captive, was appointed as a lesser magistrate over the whole Babylonian empire by King Darius. As Daniel 6 goes on to say through circumstances of political intrigue and deception, King Darius makes a law in the whole land that there will be a 30-day prohibition on prayer to anyone but the king.
What does Daniel do when he hears of it? He goes to his room, windows open so that all people can see and defies the higher magistrate by praying to the true and living God. In his defiance, he interposed on behalf of all those who would pray to God in faith and would suffer from this wicked decree.
Daniel gets thrown in the lion’s den and spoiler alert, God delivers him and the decree is reversed.
The interposition of our lesser magistrates is needed in our day and in our community. As laws are passed aimed at destroying constitutional liberty, shedding innocent blood (abortion) as well as prohibiting religious freedom begin to take root, those who are in office are given the responsibility to defy tyranny and uphold God’s standard.
As iniquity abounds and injustice streams within our community, may God not say of us, neither pastor, county commissioner, judge or sheriff “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (Eze. 22:30)