What is the proper role of government? Well, one thing we know is that government is not the Holy Spirit.
To answer the question of the role of government, we must also look at the role of the family and the role of the Church. God set these three institutions like the three legs of a stool that form the basis of a just society. Society becomes unstable when one institution gets too long by overstepping its bounds. The government ought not do what the church is intended to do and the church ought not due what the family is best suited for.
To be more specific, The government ought not be the conscience of the people and the church should not go to war. God does not look favorably on an institution that oversteps its bounds. Just look at King Uzziah. He was a righteous King and he thought he was honoring God by burning incense in the Temple. It seemed like a good idea at the time but God struck him with leprosy because of it. His son learned that the king ought not serve as priest.
Morality is crucial in government. But this means we should elect people who are moral. Not that we elect people to make others moral. Many an immoral politician has tried to obscure his own moral failings by promising to fix the moral failings of others.
You cannot make someone else moral through force. Force is the only power of government. So therefore the government cannot make people moral. To try is to fail and we see this failure throughout the American government. Many evangelicals support Rudy Gulliani, an immoral man, because they do not understand this principle. Making others moral is the role of the Holy Spirit not the government.
Only Christ can change the heart. The role of government is simply to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. Justice is an end in and of itself. Justice gets clouded when it becomes a means to the end of sin prevention. Abortion is unjust because it involves to the killing of innocent life. We outlaw abortion because it is unjust, not because it is sin. The church should preach against sin. The government should simply establish justice. Our problem is that we are trying to fix church problems through government action. This is like treating the arm for a heart ailment.
For example, the church in America is forsaking the Biblical Gospel. We have used the "sinners prayer" to immunize a whole generation of people from true repentance. Statistics show that those in our churches have become immoral. The church, an institution intended to promote the Gospel and thus righteousness, now mostly perpetuates mediocrity. The solution to the growing immorality in our nation is fixing the church and preaching the true Gospel of total repentance from sin and total faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot fix this problem through governmental action or through stronger families.
Abortion is not only a failing of government to establish justice, it is also a failing of the church to preach against the sins of lust, fornication and murder. The Church must take care of women who are in distress. Abortion is also a failing of the family to promote and maintain a working system of courtship in accountability. The cure for abortion lies through action in all three institutions.
Now these three legs do effect one another. The government can change the definition of marriage from a permanent relationship to a semi permanent relationship through no fault divorce laws. This has hurt the family as we have seen. In that same way the church can manipulate the government to advance church ends through force as we have seen throughout history. Also the government can limit religious speech as it is beginning to do today. But I would contend that many of these problems can be avoided by keeping the institutions within their God given bounds as well as we can understand them to exist.
In short, we need true followers of Christ in government, in church and in the family. We don’t need counterfeits and false converts.