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Philippa Martyr: Let Christ be the source of all good governance

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Stained glass window of Christ the King in St. Joseph's Church, Toomyvara, County Tipperary, Ireland. Photo: Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE
Stained glass window of Christ the King in St. Joseph’s Church, Toomyvara, County Tipperary, Ireland. Photo: Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

Last year I wrote a column for the feast of Christ the King for the very first time. But there’s always more angles to explore on a feast of this significance.

Here’s one: government and governance. These two words are often mixed up, but they have slightly different meanings.

Government is the exercise of authority. Governance is the way in which an entity is held to account.

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You could argue that if we had proper government (of nations, cities, and individual souls), we wouldn’t need so much governance. I see a connection between our newfound love of governance and people’s growing lack of responsibility for their own actions.

Scripture doesn’t use the term “governance” at all, but it’s very happy to talk about “government.” In the Bible, to be given the right to govern something is a colossal reward.

Christ is king; everything has been placed under his feet. We are his brothers and sisters, his royal family, the stewards of all creation, and the future citizens of a new heaven and earth.

But St Paul tells us that if we want all this future glory, then what we really need to govern in this life is ourselves.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:6-8).

There you have it. So the Feast of Christ the King is a good day to ask which one of these is governing you.

What does a mind governed by the flesh look like? It does everything for its own enjoyment and satisfaction. It cares terribly about what other people think of it and works hard to maintain a suitable façade.

It lives in a way that’s identical to the pagan society around it. It goes to church under sufferance and spends the rest of the week making up for that precious hour wasted.

It can’t be told anything because it always knows best. This includes perennial church teachings, which “no longer conform to modern science” (this isn’t true, but these people always suffer from chronic Dunning-Kruger effect).

St Paul is pretty clear that a life spent keeping up with the Joneses and ignoring God’s truth leads to death, no matter how many times you served on the parish council.

This isn’t because God is cruel. It’s because you submitted to the wrong master and made yourself gradually incapable of living an authentically Christian life.

Let’s just read that again: “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” So if you’re governed by the flesh, you need to stage an interior revolution and overthrow your current master, don’t you?

“The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” You don’t just get peace for yourself—you are also a vehicle of life and peace for other people.

A mind governed by the Spirit is open and receptive to God; it can submit to God’s law and does so. It goes to God daily and sits with him and asks for his help with everything.

It trusts God completely, even when things look bad. It says no to itself when it yearns for things that are against God’s law.

It turns those yearnings around and directs them into love and care for other people. It accepts personal hardships to grow in love and trust of God, but also strives to lift crosses off other people’s backs.

It can be told it’s wrong without having a meltdown. It soaks up and reflects the light of God’s perennial truths through the church without getting too het up about synods.

Which one of these people would you rather be? Which one of these people would you rather hang out with?

If we governed ourselves in the way God has invited us to do, then the church would be a far holier place. If we asked God daily for the grace of metanoia—conversion of heart—instead of always trying to change the church from the outside, we might have more success.

Christ the King is the source of all good government, including your own. You might like to start inviting him to help you overthrow your current regime.

Place your worried, fractious little self under the gentle rule of the Spirit instead. You won’t regret it.

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