God and Country

I feel very blessed to have been born both in this place and in this time. I love my country (and my state even more, but that’s another thought) and am proud to sing our national anthem and pledge my allegiance to the United States of America. And while I am not widely traveled, I have enough experience with other places to appreciate what this nation offers her citizens. I’ve seen people living in conditions that make deer camp look like the Hilton. I do not take for granted our blessings, and I join with so many other people in my concerns about the general direction in which our fair nation is moving, both morally and ideologically. I do not want to lose my rights and privileges. I do not want to live under an oppressive or invasive government. I want my children to grow up and eventually raise their children in an environment that insures life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And as a citizen of this nation, I can participate in the governing of our land by exercising my freedom of speech, my right to vote, my contact with those who represent me, etc.

Those of us who are Christians enjoy what has been a rare privilege in history, for we have the opportunity to inject our perspectives and convictions into the great societal expression that shapes the policies and decisions of our government. And participation in that process is neither wrong, nor inappropriate. But what seems to be happening in recent years raises some concerns in my mind. Perhaps what I am seeing is merely a reflection of my own historical naivety. I’ve never been a real “political creature” in my life. Oh, I have opinions and I vote and have been involved ever since I reached eighteen. But such involvement has been minimal. Now, however, I’m sneaking up on 50, with three daughters to finish raising and educating. I give a bit more thought to the economy and health care and political agendas than I used to, I guess simply because I see the potential impact upon my life. So maybe I’m just more aware of an undercurrent that has always been flowing. But I still think the river is raging as it has not previously.

There is a tremendous amount of political discussion among Christians these days. Casual conversations. Social networking sites. Town hall meetings and tea parties. Even Bible classes. What’s happening in our government is clearly on the minds of God’s people. And, I reiterate, this is not in itself wrong. But I would voice these concerns for all of those souls in turmoil over the present state of the United States.

Christians are citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Phil.3:20; Jn.18:36). We are strangers, sojourners, resident aliens in the United States (I Pet.2:11). And while my physical nativity permits me to throw in my “two cents worth” as I pass through, let us remember who we are and whose we are. Certainly we can involve ourselves in temporal government and use such to our best advantage. The Lord respected such (Mt.22:15) and Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37f; 25:10f). But the Lord is our King, regardless of what happens in this country. He reigns, and my focus is to be first and foremost upon His kingdom, no matter the form or nature of civil government under which I live. My affections, concerns, and responsibilities as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven willnot change with the
uncertainties of temporal government.

Secondly, would that Christians would approach the promotion of the kingdom of heaven with as much passion, diligence, and interest as some exhibit in the promotion of their conservative political agenda. It’s sad when we will show up at a town hall meeting but not at a gospel meeting. It’s detrimental to the cause of Christ when we will try boldly to convert a political opponent, but not a sinner. It’s disconcerting that we spend more time listening to Fox News than studying the Good News. It’s reprehensible – reprehensible – when we worry more, talk more, work more for the United States than for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, it is a dangerous thing to see Christians dividing over political ideology. Politics is a convoluted arena. The admixture of economic issues, social concerns, civil rights, national defense, legal matters, benevolence, moral issues, and a host of other elements make political loyalty problematic for every child of God. Who does not face some kind of dilemma in his ideology? I do not know one Christian who is serious about his/her discipleship that does not struggle with such matters. But it is a grievous issue when we begin to form our loyalties on the basis of political activity rather than on the basis of our common faith. Paul told the Galatians (Gal.3:28) and the Colossians (Col.3:11) that all temporal distinctions are to be discounted within the family of Christ – “you are all one in Christ”. Heaven forbid that we include Democrat and Republican in those lists. Do we really believe that those aspects of society that separate various political views are more serious and divisive than were the differences between the Jew and the Gentile or between the slave and the free? How can we put politics before brotherhood?

Finally, and perhaps this is at the root of all of the above, we need to remember that civil government is not the answer to the problems that we face in our society. Can our government influence such? Without a doubt. But the moral deterioration that we see in our world is not going to be arrested and reversed by congressional legislation, Supreme Court verdicts, or presidential agendas. When individuals become more godly, and influence those around them toward the respect and promotion of God Almighty, then and only then will our world change. And the government will change with it. Read the parable of the mustard seed and that of the leaven (Mt.13:31-33). If we’re going to be passionate about a government, then let’s be passionate about God’s government.

Did I mention that I love my country?

Russ Bowman
Reflections, 9-23-09

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