A lot has happened in the United States these past weeks. Race and gender are probably the hottest topics that people either rage over or just won’t talk about. But that’s not why I’m bringing it up. Heck, I’m not really even going to talk about these things. Enough is already being said on both sides of these issues.
No, I have something else to say. If I had to name myself politically, I wouldn’t align myself with a party, but I would say that my worldview is conservative, in some ways more than others. I also follow Jesus Christ. Consider the ice broken. In two paragraphs I’ve mentioned race, gender, religion, and politics. I hate discussing politics because despite it being important and an unfortunate extension of real issues, it is not the real issue. Someone has to do it, right?
I run into a predicament, being a Christian and a conservative. I find myself caught between two sides of a war that completely misses the point. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Race and gender are two important issues that are getting a lot of both necessary and unnecessary attention.
What I’m saying is that my fellow Christian conservatives tend to get really obsessive about politics due to their passion for their worldview, their ideals, their morals, their faith. All of those things are great, but they have unfortunately led to something really ugly that we had better pay attention to before we dig a deeper grave for ourselves.
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m very upset that I feel the need to write this.
In America, we’re used to a certain way that things work and have worked for a long time. No country in the world is an exception. That’s part of how a stable government works, whether it’s a monarchy or a democratic republic. That’s a good thing. I also can’t think of a single country that I’ve studied that hasn’t undergone some form of radical transformation in the course of its history, be it for better or worse.
In America, the federal government and the states below it are governed by a constitution. With the brief exception of the Articles of Confederation that governed us in our nation’s infancy, the Constitution is all we’ve known, besides individual state constitutions. I think people on both sides of the issues, with few exceptions, hold to this Constitution as the governing and protecting force of our country. As great of an ideal as it is, though, if you follow Christ, you [hopefully] know this is not true, and this is the real reason why I’m upset. I believe we’ve forgotten what we signed up for.
1: We’re a part of a kingdom, not a democracy.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”— Jesus Christ, according to Matthew
For as many times we recite these words, we seem to have a distinct separation in our minds between how we live for America and how we live for the kingdom. Let me not be abstract about “the kingdom.” Let me not hyper-spiritualize “the kingdom.” It is a kingdom, and we have a king. He is the final authority on all things. He began our faith when we needed it to return to Him, and He will finish our faith when we are finally home in His presence forever.
Scripture does say numerous times that we need to respect human authority. That is important because we do live among humans. That being said, human authority is not the final authority. We will not answer to one of us when we die. We will answer to the Lord alone.
Considering the fact that we have chosen this kingdom, what profit could it be for us, then, to return to human authority as our obsession. Jesus did say, after all, that “the one whom the Son sets free is free indeed,” so why exactly do we rely on human government to tell us we are not free? Let’s say our man-made, constitutional right to freely speak and be free from laws impeding religion, is revoked one day. Has this never before happened in history? Is it new? Heh. Not even close.
What’s more, would a change in law really threaten you? Do your beliefs mean so little to you that another human being telling you that you can’t do [insert literally anything here] will make you forget that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength?
2: We were promised persecution to the bitter end.
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.”— John, an apostle of Jesus Christ, in his revelation
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”— Jesus Christ, according to His apostle John
Why should we be shocked if the world hates us? Jesus promised it. Every word from His lips is as sure as a promise. This is what we signed up for! Somewhere along the way, God revealed to you that this gospel was life-changing, and worth living and dying for, dying to self and giving our lives to those who hate His cause. It wasn’t in fine print. It’s everywhere, and it would take too much space to write them all. All you have to do is read the book.
3: America is not the “Christian nation it once was” because it never was. The church is.
“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”— Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ
The fact that we continue to ignore is that we were never meant to invade the state and enforce religion. Remember what happened with that? Remember the Pharisees and Sadducees, who Jesus actively fought against (see Matthew 23)? What about the state of Europe during the dark ages? No. We were meant to meet people where they are (see John 8). We were meant to care for orphans and widows (see James 1). Our war isn’t against people, but against forces in the spiritual realm (see Ephesians 6). Everything in the Bible tends to draw attention to an enemy that isn’t mankind but spiritual, so why are we wasting our time trying to conquer a different realm?
Whether or not our nation was “founded on Christian principles” is way besides the point. It doesn’t actually matter. It didn’t matter for Rome or the British Empire, and it certainly doesn’t matter for us. When we start attacking human governments and laying on them the responsibilities that were delegated to us upon our creation, the responsibility to respond to God of our own accord, without the aid of human governing forces (and this is not to say that they don’t play an unfortunate role in that), we’re attacking the wrong enemy. The enemy is ourselves, and we have to fight that regardless of the governmental situations we’re in.
We have to “train our families in the way they should go” regardless of what human has temporary governing authority because the truth is simply that they have been allowed to reign. Whether or not they do it right isn’t actually the issue because their collective butts sitting in on their collective thrones is only temporary. God’s reign never ended, and it never will, regardless of the choices of society or our rulers. Yes, “blessed is the nation whose god is the Lord,” but a nation is made up of far more citizens than politicians. And we are citizens of the Christian nation called “the church” regardless of our borders or human laws.
4: Democracy rarely lasts because everyone has an opinion.
“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.”— Solomon, third king of Israel
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”— the Judges
After spending a long time rebelling and divided, a human kingdom was established in Israel. It was mostly corrupt, but it was there.
Eventually, people became fed up with fighting the natives and begged for a king in the name of security. This has always been with us, and so it will forever be a struggle between the will of the people and the will of one. But it was a human king that they craved, not a divine one.
The most amazing part about this is that our God is good. No other god humbled himself to the point of death and got back up. No other god defended an adulteress in the streets. No other god hung out with sinners. No other god gave real second chances. No other god has changed the world like Jesus. He is a good king to have. Are we itching so badly to run back to the wars in which we consume ourselves, or to offer ourselves as slaves to people and ideas that leave us dead and hungry in the end?
Everyone has always had an opinion. It was true in the days of Israel’s infancy, as it was true when Paul visited Athens, as it is true today. Whether or not our opinions continue to matter to or please the government will never matter to those who really care about what they believe. Yes, of course, it will affect us all, but it won’t stop us. If the resurrection of Christ is true, how could it stop us?
5: We aren’t entitled to anything, not even America.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”— Job, a servant of the living God
Everything is awesome when you have the opportunity to decide for yourself what you believe and what you’re willing to sacrifice for those beliefs. But that’s not the world we live in. We have been lucky enough to have any decisions to make without governmental persecution–and let’s get this straight: just because unimpeded religion has been legal for a couple of centuries doesn’t make following Christ “cool” with anyone–but that doesn’t mean that this good thing we’ve been given has resulted in a 100% good outcome.
As for this world, we do need some freedom, and if we must, we should be willing to fight to defend it and expand it in righteousness. That doesn’t mean we deserve it. We are intrinsically valuable, not intrinsically worthy of any and all liberties to do whatever we want because we tend to make a mess of things.
Our perceived entitlement to freely practice religion has given Christians the time and the space to argue about things that don’t matter, like genres of music, wearing the right style of clothes, denominations, whether an all-powerful God can create a universe with free will, the “order” of a church service, and countless other things that 9 times out of 10 will do more to trip up someone who is trying to figure their faith out than to help them stay in the faith.
This freedom we have can go just as easily as it came. God gave it to us for good reason, and when He takes it away, the reason will be equally as good. But bear in mind that we did nothing meriting freedom. That’s the whole reason Christ came: to save us, not give us a pat on the back. That’s what the Pharisees were hoping for, yet they were the ones He criticized the most for proclaiming a false gospel, one that said that you have to earn your way into heaven. But the true gospel is that Christ wants us to be with Him, and that the point of it all isn’t heaven–which is a happy side-effect and the place we’re heading–but the point of it is to be restored to a place where we are able to be in communion with Him forever, as was the intent even from before the fall.
If He has to take away our freedom to believe what we believe without backlash, so be it. Let’s be grateful for what we have, yet not hold onto it with a death grip. This world isn’t the endgame.
6: Our God gives peace.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.— Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Philippians
I’m sure a lot of you know what distress is like. So do I. It’s funny how God moves in us to bring us peace just by knowing what He has done for us. Christ planned to come for us before anything existed. Then He came for us, sinners, took the punishment we deserve (death), and defeated that punishment by rising from the dead. If that doesn’t make you sleep a little better at night, I don’t know what will.
I see a stark contrast, though, when I see Christians gather together to talk politics because it’s rarely ever just talk. Usually, it’s more like rabid dogs foaming at the mouth, hungry for their place in society, which we were never promised—remember point 5? I’ll admit, I’ve seen a few that don’t. Trust me when I say I know what it’s like to be in both situations. Before I really knew Christianity was more than a set of dogma, before I truly believed in the love that we’ve been given rather than just believing that the stories were factual, I was the same way.
I get it. Who shouldn’t be passionate about justice, and seeing things that are wrong come to an end? It’s not really a just thing that men persecute each other (regardless of what you believe).
Nor is human trafficking.
Nor is the beheading of fellow men for believing in God.
Nor is bullying people because they’re nerdy.
Nor is theft.
Nor is corporate corruption.
Nor is arrogance.
Nor is hate.
Nor is lust.
Nor is cancer.
Nor is self-harm.
Nor is depression.
Nor is suicide.
Nor is bullying homosexuals.
Nor is racism.
Nor is an overreaching federal government.
Nor is excessive police force.
Nor is the imposition of debt upon future generations without their consent (because they’re not here yet).
Nor is taxation without parliamentary representation.
Nor is a layoff.
Nor is a tsunami that takes lives.
Nor is poverty.
Nor is hunger.
Nor is loneliness.
Nor is passivity.
Nor is knowingly ignoring any of these things when we could be doing good in Jesus’ name.
There are a lot bigger problems in the world than whether or not conservatives or liberals or moderates are offended by someone else’s existence and beliefs.
Be peacemakers, people. Even if you disagree on a fundamental level with someone’s viewpoint, even when they are wrong, be peacemakers. As far as you have the choice, you can usher in real, deep, rich conversations, or you can act as harbingers of war. That’s your decision. Considering the fact that Christ has offered us peace by giving His life in our stead, we should probably not be stingy in offering peace to others. Remember: Jesus befriended sinners, of whom we are, in order to save us from ourselves. Don’t hesitate to give the same love to anyone else. And just to reiterate, our enemy isn’t people. Our enemy is false ideas and he who is the father of them, whom we call Satan.
7: Remember how the story ends.
See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.— anonymous, to the Hebrews
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.— Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Corinthians
I feel like adding commentary to these passages would be pointless. If that doesn’t excite you, you who profess to follow Jesus Christ, I doubt that anything will. In summation, we are going to experience a transformation that will allow us to enter into an unshakable kingdom.
From the beginning of the world, and still today, and to its end, man’s kingdoms (democracies, republics, autocracies) have failed, are failing, and will fail. Why? Because we’re corruptible. We can be shaken… unless we place our lives in God’s hands.
The whole point of this is not to judge Christians. I know that I myself am just as worthy of judgment. I simply ask: do you really believe that this kingdom we’ve been given cannot be shaken? Or will it shake you too much to lose this temporary kingdom that we have been patiently allowed to manage? It goes against us to trust what we cannot see physically, especially when we have our own plans and ideas as to how things should work. But when we die, when we all die, what will those ideas be worth? What will some arbitrary form of freedom that will be no longer accessible, or even compare with the freedom that comes with being the presence of the Lord, mean? If they came from a temporary source, such as ourselves, they will die with us.
But if what we believe is really true, then when all is said and done, it is those elements that will keep the kingdom we’ve been given from being shaken. Why? Because their source is an unshakable God.