I’m going to take a risk at rambling here. I haven’t written on this site in over a year, I think. But this weighs heavy on my heart, and I want to get some thoughts out.
Christians debate round and around about politics, government and morality. It’s heartbreaking. It’s like the Accuser has us at one another’s throats to cut each other down and rip one another apart with our opinions and ideas.
First, let’s look at the calling of the church. We are the sons and daughters of God, the descendants of the “seed” mentioned in Hebrews. That seed being Christ, the seed of Abraham that was said to be a blessing to *all* the nations of the world.
We are meant to be a blessing to all of the nations.
Can we be a blessing if we’re busy cutting each other apart? Can we be any help if we’re at each others throats so much about how the world should be behaving that all they see is division, anger and hatred?
No, we cannot. And we will not should we choose to persist in our behavior.
We are behaving as those who do not believe in our King who intercedes for us before the throne of God. We are behaving as animals out for mere survival, thinking only of temporal nations and not the everlasting rule of the One True King that will never, ever end.
I think it is genuinely essential, crucial for us to look at the teachings of the early church, those who were mere generations after the apostles who walked and talked with our Lord and Messsiah. What did they have to say?
Origen quoted a prophecy of Isaiah:
Who among the believers does not know the words in Isaiah? “In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be revealed, and the house of the Lord on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills. All nations shall come to it. Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his way, and we will walk in it.” For out of Zion shall go forth a law, and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more [Isa. 1:2-5]. (Letter from Origen to Africanus 15)
The nations are not, at this moment coming to the House of the God of Jacob because we are so divided against one another. We are of this or that affiliation. We are on the left. We are on the right. We are of our opinion.
The church is meant to be a beacon of hope, light and life. They will see our love for one another and be amazed and say, “Look! See how they love each other? Let’s go and ask them how we should live!”
And our humble reply is to obey the master.
But no, they are not coming to us. I believe that part of this is because we are beating down their doors to force them into submission to a master they do not have any interest in serving.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians tells us to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and work hard with our hands, that the outside world will see our work and glorify God. We don’t give them time to see us work hard and with love because we’re too busy NOT minding our own business and caring for the kingdom of God.
In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that we are not to spend our time judging and assessing the world and their ways, but to focus instead on one another in the church. That we should watch out that we do not behave as the pagans, or those who are not following the King do. He says that we would have no one to speak to if we insist on judging the world. That’s not our domain. No, ours is the church, the Kingdom.
We are a transcendent nation meant to go beyond any borders, tribe, tongue or political affiliation. We are not of this world. We are citizens of the king who have BEEN RANSOMED FROM THE VERY SYSTEM WE INSIST ON BEING PART OF AND PROPPING UP.
I’m no socialist, communist or capitalist. Though my earthly citizenship is in the U.S., I have to acknowledge that my King, the Christ, Jesus, ransomed me with His very blood to rescue me from thinking like this earthly nation. And not just this nation, every nation. One of the many things he has ransomed us from is the idea that the nations could ever fix it all.
The scriptures make clear that the nations and powers are tools of God. God uses them for his wrath and to carry out justice. But Jesus never allowed his disciples to take up this task. In fact, when Peter drew his sword to stand up for Jesus (the way we so often do day to day, thinking we need to defend the author of all life) he was disarmed and only made more glorious work for Jesus to carry out in healing.
Jesus had to heal the man Peter saw as an enemy of God. Peter had good intentions, the same as so many of us, and Jesus disarmed him despite those good intentions.
Can you see this scenario in our daily lives? We see so many as a threat to God and his morality. We draw swords and work hard to control the powers of this world. But when we play by their rules, drawing the sword (whether by word or deed) we only wind up cutting off ears and making more work for the Father to do despite our actions.
As far as participating in violence goes, there’s not room here for me to list the many, many writings from the early church fathers regarding this. They are clear. For some meaty lists, Christian History for Everyman or go here for another list that is even longer.
In my opinion, there’s no disputing what they had to say. They were clear. Those in the first 3 centuries of what we call Christianity were forbidden to participate in the violence of the powers.
Personally, I would go even farther to simply look at the example of Jesus himself. He and the disciples stood, walked and talked in the midst of one of the most horrid, debased empires. The debauchery around them was intense. And yet, you don’t hear Jesus speaking out against the governing powers of Rome. Instead, he focused on those who were trying to follow his heavenly Father.
He even stood before the powers, innocent and blameless, and subverted them by submitting to death. He overthrew them by being still rather than overthrowing them with the very tactics that they used day in and out.
Our King rules with a power that submits and subverts, overthrowing with love, rather than force. There are no laws against the calling of Christ to love one another. The powers cannot stop us.
He taught us to pay our taxes without complaint.
Paul and Peter taught us to pray for our rulers, regardless their sin. It should be noted that they did this during the time of Nero, a disgusting man who would light Christians up as torches to light his garden. He enjoyed our torture. Yet Paul and Peter were still there telling us to submit, as our Lord did. To pray and beg God for mercy and grace on them.
Christ, Paul, Peter, John… they all stood before the horrid authorities over them knowing full well that God is our defender.
The martyrs throughout the centuries faced the beasts and executioners knowing full well that God is our defender.
We, however, live in fear of a nation falling apart in immorality.
God is still our defender. And fear IS NOT A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.
The difference I see between us and the early church is that we have a government that seemingly asks and requires our participation. Rome did not do this. America, however, permits us to have a voice.
Therefore, we really should do what we can.
But, this does not mean that we should behave as though we are fighting for America. We are not, and it is imperative that we DO NOT.
The Kingdom of the Living God is the goal. His kingdom is eternal and will have no end.
The nations of this world will, without doubt, pass away and no trace of them remain in the scope of the rule of our King.
Don’t be afraid. Set your eyes on Christ, the king. He will defend. He does not need us to pick up swords, whether physical, emotional or the swords of our tongues. He needs us to live, love and move in Him and Him alone.
Do we hide our heads in the sand? No. Speak up as you are given right to for *actual* injustice. But do so in the Spirit of our King, not on the basis of opinion.
Our opinions and mindsets cannot be fueled by the talking heads of our age. We cannot allow the church to be shaped and molded and manipulated by Spirit of the age that keeps us fighting. The fighting and bickering is their culture, and not ours.
We were never told that the world would know us because we fight, argue and scream louder. No, they will know us by our love. Our minds must be renewed to not get entangled with their logic that the cross has turned into foolishness.
Yes, the cross has turned their culture and political wars into foolishness.
We have to give ourselves over to this truth, the cross is foolishness to the wise of this world. Our minds must be given over to THE WAY of Christ to be renewed and saved from thinking about ruling the world the way the powers, people and cultures who war against one another.
There is no power that can go to war against the love presented in the Cross.
There is no power that can prevail against it.
If, however, we spend our time listening to the logic of the world rather than the teaching and instruction of our master, we will fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our faith. What we do is call ourselves Christians, but neglect to let the love and clear teaching of Jesus guide our actions, mindsets and even our voting.
Instead of weighing who to vote for or what causes is just against ideologies like Capitalism or Socialism, we should be weighing all things against the living, breathing WORD of God who walks and talks with his Church.
If we do not weigh all things this way, the cross, when presented, will look like nonsense. We will scoff at loving actions because they do not line up with our ideologies.
Make no mistake, the way of Christ, His love and self sacrifice *is* a threat to every power because, in the end, it will undermine all of them. But, if *all* submit to the Way, then the powers have nothing to do. The systems break down. The poor are cared for and the rich are generous.
Sure, the thought of those last few statements may make some bristle, but it *is* the picture painted by the scriptures, and it is the heart of God that all of his children live together, in harmony and generosity.
We are meant to be the salt of the earth. We are meant to be the Body of the Living Christ.
May we all ask ourselves, every morning and night, “Father, how is my mind overpowered by the culture around me? Teach me, loving Father to think like you think. Teach us to love as you love. Teach us to see what you see. Teach us, blessed King, teach us how to live.”