The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: United States

Politics From A Christian Perspective: Biblical Principles

As I mentioned in the introductory post to this series, I am working on ironing out some of my thoughts on Christian faith and political engagement. I laid out several reasons why I think this is a complicated issue, but ultimately, I do believe that Scripture has much to say that should inform the way that Christians view and interact with politics. My goal is to briefly review several biblical principles that should influence Christian political views and, when appropriate, discuss these how principles interact with our current political situation.



Jesus Is Lord

I touched on this in the last post, but I believe that all Christian interaction with politics must begin here, with what is, perhaps, the central statement of Christianity: Jesus is Lord. This is an inherently political claim, and if we miss that truth, we not only start off on the wrong foot politically, but we are also disconnected theologically from the story of Christianity and the church that we read about in the New Testament.

“Lord” is an interesting word; to us, it is almost exclusively a religious term. We tend to think of it as a synonym for “God”, but really, “Lord” was a favorite title of Jesus in the early church. And it’s not primarily a religious title, either; it was a title with distinctly political overtones. “Lord” was the official title for the Roman Emperor: laws, edicts and decrees were signed “Lord Caesar.” This means that when early Christians called Jesus “Lord”, they were making a political statement: by saying that Jesus was Lord, they were simultaneously saying that Caesar was not.[1] Jesus was the One who had absolute authority over their lives, He set the standards by which they were to live, He was the One to whom they owed primary allegiance, and it was He who sat on the throne of the universe.

As a Christian, it is really important that I remember that, regardless of who claims worldly positions of power—Nero in Rome, Napoleon in France, Hitler in Germany, or whoever wins the US Presidential election—Jesus is still Lord. His reign is secure, His victory is certain, and it is to Him that I pledge my primary allegiance, and in Him that I place my hope and trust. All of this may sound like a no-brainer to Christians, but it is easily forgotten anytime a well-meaning Christian suggests that “This is the most important election in history because X” or “If X wins the election we are in trouble because Y.”

Jesus is Lord. That reality helps me to view the human political arena in a different light, and should free me from the hysteria that plagues it.

Citizens of the Kingdom

If Jesus is Lord, that means that He has rule and authority, and the Bible describes this in terms of a “kingdom.” Jesus came preaching about His kingdom, describing what it is like and how citizens of His kingdom should live. The kingdom of God is not bound by place, time, or ethnicity, but rather, encompasses all those who have submitted to His Lordship and seek to live according to His will. It is a multi-ethnic, supra-national reality that confounds the sovereignty of earthly nation-states.

That means that Christians—citizens of God’s kingdom—living in earthly nation-states occupy a peculiar position. One ancient Christian describes it this way:

“[Christians] live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country.”[2]

In other words, Christians live all over the world, and while they may hold citizenship in any nation, their core identity should be as citizens of God’s kingdom.

I am an American, and I value my American citizenship, but my citizenship in God’s kingdom should be more central to my identity than my American-ness. That means that I should feel more kinship with a fellow Christian living in Russia, China, or Iraq than an unbelieving fellow American who lives on my own street. It also means that, from a Christian perspective, American values are not inherently good, and must be weighed against the standards of God’s kingdom.

So, for example, from a Christian perspective, “America first” policies—while they may be politically expedient and bring blessing to those residing within the borders of the United States—must inherently be viewed with skepticism. Also, the American love for (obsession with?) freedom and rights must be tempered by the kingdom value that the exercise of our rights must not come at the expense of our neighbors (1 Corinthians 8); love is more important than liberty.

As a Christian, I must seek first God’s kingdom, and apply myself to live by the values of that kingdom. When I do so, I can rest content in the knowledge that I am living as salt and light in the world and bringing glory to my Father who is in Heaven.

Love Of Neighbor

The previous value leads naturally to this one, that Christians are called to love our neighbors. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is that we love God with all that we have,[3] and the second is like it, that we love our neighbors as ourselves. In further teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes clear that all people count as our neighbors (even our enemies!). Of course, the importance of loving our neighbors is not an idea that was novel to Christianity; it was taught in the Hebrew Bible as well. As Paul says in Galatians 5.14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Furthermore, while we are called to love everyone, the Bible teaches repeatedly that we are to give special care and attention to those who are marginalized and oppressed. The Hebrew Bible frequently discusses the need to make special provision for the triad of the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner/stranger. Israelite farmers were to tend their land in such a way that they left some of their harvest for the poor. Jesus tells His followers that they will be judged for the way they treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner. Paul tells Corinthian Christians that those without honor should be treated with special honor.

This is all closely related to the idea of justice. Justice has become a charged word in our current cultural climate, but that’s too bad, because it is an important biblical concept. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word justice is closely related to the word righteousness, and a simple (but, I believe, accurate) way to understand these words is that righteousness refers to us having a right relationship with God (characterized by loving God with all that we have) and justice refers to us having a right relationship with others (characterized by loving our neighbors as ourselves).

While there may be a host of disagreements about how best to show our love for neighbor and bring about justice through good policy, Christians should absolutely be able to agree on the principle of neighborly love.

Love of neighbor and showing special concern for the marginalized and oppressed should absolutely cause us to oppose abortion and work for that tragic practice to be ended. But it should also cause us to apply the “Pro-Life” label more broadly than it often is: Christians don’t care for babies only when they are in the womb![4] We care for infants who need adopting. We care for children who need healthcare. We care for families living in poverty who consider abortion to be their only option. We care for men and women from poor backgrounds (or, from any backgrounds) who make bad decisions and end up in prison. We care for men, women, and children from other nations who yearn to enter our nation in search of a better life. We care for people of all races and ethnicities and lament when some suffer from inequities. We care for elderly adults who want to live dignified and valued lives.

And—don’t miss this!—we care for those who disagree with us, whether about this, or any other biblical principle.


We have already established that, as Christians, we are fundamentally citizens of a different sort of kingdom, and that Jesus is our Lord. As kingdom citizens, we live out kingdom values, and a primary kingdom value as we live in a society and interact with other people is love of neighbor.

At the same time, the reality is that I am also a citizen of the United States, and with that comes certain opportunities and responsibilities. The next several principles reflect that reality and relate to how we are to view the nation(s) in which we live and our role as “dual citizens”.


Character of Leaders

The moral perfection, abounding love, and abiding wisdom of Jesus means that Christians do not have to worry about the character of our King, but when it comes to earthly leaders, all of them have their failings and shortcomings. That doesn’t mean, however, that the moral character of leaders does not matter or should not be taken into account.

In the Hebrew Bible, we can think of men like Pharaoh in the days of Moses who, in addition to his wickedness in oppressing the Israelites in slavery, also brought untold suffering upon his own people through his pride and stubbornness. Pharaoh’s lack of moral character certainly mattered; a leader with a more pliant heart would have spared his people much pain.

But we can see even clearer examples when we look at the kings of Israel.[5] Repeatedly, kings are evaluated in Scripture based on their faithfulness to God and whether or not they led their people toward devotion to Yahweh, or toward the worship of pagan idols. A few kings received sterling marks, others were a mixed bag, and others were condemned for their wickedness. Jeroboam receives special notoriety: as the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam was given special opportunity by God but squandered it. He was known as the king who “made Israel to sin”, and became the standard by which other bad kings were measured. The principle seems clear: the Bible does not shy away from evaluating the character of kings, and associates bad moral character with bad results for the nation.

From a Christian perspective, the character of our leaders should matter, because it matters to God.

My first formative political memories came at a time when Bill Clinton was the President of the United States. While in office, President Clinton was involved in a sex scandal, and the resounding cry from conservative Christians was that Clinton’s moral failings had negative effects upon the entire nation, and rendered him unfit for office. The argument went: If this sort of thing is winked at in the White House, what message does it send our children? I was a young teenager at the time, but the argument totally made sense to me. It seemed valid.

Imagine my feelings of whiplash when 20 years later, a candidate with similar moral failings came to prominence, but now represented the opposite party. Instead of repeating the argument that had been made two decades earlier, many of the same conservative Christians were now singing a different tune: Everyone is a sinner; who are you to judge? We are electing a President, not a preacher/pastor/Pope! 

This blatant hypocrisy has done so much damage to the esteem and moral authority of religious conservatives (especially in the eyes of people of my generation and younger), but beyond that, it is biblically false. The Bible simply doesn’t teach that we are powerless to evaluate moral character since everyone sins! In fact, not only does the Bible not teach that all sins are the same in God’s eyes, Jesus tells us that, while it is not our place to judge the eternal destinies of people, we are to evaluate people’s character, which can be known by their fruits.

Now, it’s certainly possible that there are times when we may find ourselves in a position where we look at two candidates and simply cannot discern any significant difference in their character.[6] But the notion that policies matter while personal character does not is not a biblical principle.

Babylon, Not Israel

In the Hebrew Bible, God called a man name Abraham to follow Him, made a covenant with him, and promised him that his descendants would become a great nation and that all peoples of the earth would be blessed through him. Abraham’s descendants—the Israelites—are God’s chosen people, and much of the story of the Old Testament is God’s faithful love for His people despite their own faithlessness. In the New Testament, God does not abandon His people, but the story of Israel does take an exciting plot twist. Jesus—the descendant of Abraham and God in the flesh—bursts onto the scene, a King from the line of David who fulfills the law and shows just how it is that all peoples of the earth will be blessed through Abraham’s descendants: Israel itself is renewed and restored, but no longer will the identity of God’s people be determined by ethnicity, but rather by faithful allegiance to Lord Jesus.

Since it is Abraham’s spiritual descendants who comprise God’s people, in plain terms, this means that the United States of America is not the heir of the Kingdom of Israel. It is not the Kingdom of God. In fact, if we want a biblical parallel for the US, it’s not Israel; it’s Babylon. This statement, though perhaps shocking to some, is a well-known and often repeated teaching of Scripture: the kingdoms of men, which rise and fall, are distinct from God’s kingdom, which will never be destroyed. This is the point of prophecies in Daniel where one great nation after another topples into oblivion. This is the point of the Revelation of John, which, though dripping with anti-Roman imagery and sentiment, refers to “Babylon” as a way of saying here we go again: earthly kingdoms are oppressive, are in opposition to God’s kingdom, and are corrupted by the influence of the ruler of this world.

That doesn’t mean that all earthly kingdoms are equally bad, or that it is wrong to care about the nation in which you live, or that it is inherently wrong to serve in government or the armed forces. In my view, the United States of America is one of the kindest and most benevolent forms of Babylon that has ever existed; but it is still Babylon.

This realization, in addition to tempering whatever loyalty or allegiance we feel to our earthly nations (see “Citizens of the Kingdom” above), should also help us to observe those nations at arm’s length, and evaluate their history and current practices from a Christian perspective. In my case, I should not feel the need to defend everything the US does or has done; if a practice is just and brings blessing to people, I should feel free to praise it. On the other hand, if a practice is oppressive and brings harm, I should feel free to critique it.

And more than that, realizing that America is not the Kingdom of God frees me from a great deal of anxiety. As I look around in the country in which I live, I am struck by how un-Christian it is in all sorts of ways, but that’s what I should expect, because I live in Babylon. Why should I expect the country in which I live to look like the Kingdom of God? Because it’s not that. As Christians, we need to quit being surprised when lost people act like they’re lost. How else are they going to act? 

Once we realize this, we can quit wringing our hands about how bad things are and get busy doing God’s business: living as part of a counter-culture kingdom and spreading it throughout the world as we introduce people to Jesus.

Seek The Welfare of the City

The fact that our primary allegiance is to another King and another kingdom does not mean that we are to disdain the “Babylons” in which we sojourn during our earthly lives. In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah delivers a message from God to Israelites who have been taken into captivity in Babylon. He does not tell them to foment rebellion or withdraw from society and isolate themselves. Instead, he says:

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

(Jeremiah 29.4-7)

While living in Exile, God’s people were to put down roots and do what they could to benefit the city in which they lived. We see this principle lived out in the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who served as government officials in Babylon. We see it in the life of Queen Esther, who used her royal position to save her people. And although he lived in a different time period, we see the same principle lived out in the life of Joseph, who in his high position in Pharaoh’s administration served his country, saved his family, and enriched his master.

This principle is important to keep in mind, especially for people who tend to be cynical about politics (like me!). Perhaps because I see political systems as so tainted and imperfect and because I seek to place my hope in Jesus instead, it can be easy for me to disdain politics altogether, forgetting that political policies actually impact people’s lives for better or worse. The biblical testimony is that we are to seek the welfare of the society in which we live and the neighbors who live around us, and that God’s people sometimes are called to do this through political involvement. 

Render to Caesar

In Matthew 22, Jesus’ enemies sought to entrap Him by asking whether or not it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. After Jesus pointed out that it was Caesar’s image that appears on coins, he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

This response indicates that, while our ultimate allegiance belongs to God, we are still obligated to the state in a lesser sense. In addition to paying taxes, this means that we are to “be subject to governing authorities”, that we are to “honor the emperor”, and that we are to pray for “kings and those in authority” (Romans 13.1-7; 1 Peter 2.13-17; 1 Timothy 2.1-2).

Although there are challenging aspects to these passages,[7] taken together, they suggest that our allegiance to Christ and His kingdom doesn’t mean that Christians are bad citizens of the nations in which we live. On the contrary, as people who love our neighbors, seek the welfare of our communities, live in subjection to our governments, and pray for and honor our leaders, Christians are ideal citizens. We live that way, though, not in blind allegiance to the state, but rather because our King tells us to do so.


As I said in the opening paragraph of this post, Scripture has much to say that should inform the way that Christians view and interact with politics, and in this post, I have tried to briefly review several relevant biblical principles.[8] Here’s the problem, though: in the US, neither of our two major political parties consistently upholds these biblical principles, so how do we take a Christian perspective with us into the voting booth? In the final post of this series, I won’t try to give a  definitive answer to that question, but I will seek to provide a brief overview and evaluation of several different voting strategies that Christians often use.

At the end of the day, voting is a matter of conscience, but I believe that thoughtful reflection on biblical principles can help us to be more confident that we are engaging in politics from a Christian perspective.


Read the entire series:


[1] Some may want to push back against the notion of some sort of rivalry between Jesus and earthly rulers, but it is clearly present in the biblical text. Herod the Great wanted Jesus killed as an infant because He saw the prophesied “King of the Jews” as a rival. It was ultimately the accusation hurled at Pontius Pilate by Jewish leaders that if he released Jesus he was “no friend of Caesar” that motivated him to sign off on Jesus’ crucifixion. “King of the Jews” was written on Jesus’ cross as He was crucified—the charge for which He was executed.

Certainly, Jesus was and is a different sort of King than earthly rulers, but that doesn’t mean that there is no conflict between their respective claims of authority.

[2]  Epistle to Diognetus 5.5. This anonymous, early Christian document likely dates to the second or third century AD.

[3] The declaration that “Jesus is Lord”—properly lived out—is a reflection of the greatest commandment.

[4] Republicans (including Christians) often come under fire for being “Anti-Abortion” rather than truly being “Pro-Life”. I think there is some validity to that claim, and I think Christians would do well to consciously and vocally support a consistent Pro-Life ethic, “from womb to tomb”. Having said that, I have very little patience for Democrats who lecture Republicans about their inconsistency on this point while still supporting the practice of abortion themselves. Put differently, “Pro-Life” must mean more than “Anti-Abortion”, but it cannot mean less than that.

[5] As I mentioned in the first post, the Kingdom of Israel represents a context distinct from our own (it was a theocracy, and Israel represented God’s chosen people), but through the lens of Israel, I think we can still learn about how God views human leadership.

[6] In fact, that’s where I found myself in 2016.

[7] For example, as the Book of Acts makes clear, our obligation to the state is always held in relative position to our allegiance to God. When there is a conflict between the two, “we must obey God rather than men.”

[8] By no means is this intended to be an exhaustive list. As I was finishing up this post, it occurred to me that I could have also included creation care or generosity or stewardship—all of these are also biblical principles that interact with politics as well. And, surely, there are many other relevant biblical principles besides these. The point of this post was not to attempt to discern every biblical principle that might inform a Christian’s political perspective, but rather to prompt some reflection on a few major principles, and also to illustrate the fact that Scripture has much light to aid us before we enter into the murkiness of the political realm, if we will just avail ourselves to it.

Myths about Homosexuality, America, and the Kingdom of God

Introduction

It is with some hesitation that I share the following thoughts, because I am not really a very controversial guy and thus, like to avoid talking about hot-button topics. And homosexuality is certainly a hot-button topic in today’s society.

From a Christian perspective, I think homosexuality is a complicated issue, and part of the reason that it’s so complicated is because there are so many myths, so many false ideas floating around that confuse us and prevent us from making progress in any of this with people with whom we disagree.

So today, I want to look at several myths regarding homosexuality and to try to clarify our thinking on those, in the hopes that in the future, as we continue to deal with this issue (because it’s definitely not going away), we’ll be able to do so in a more productive and Biblically-accurate way.

Myth 1: The Bible Doesn’t Really Condemn Homosexuality.

Now, before we get into this one, I should note that there are a lot of people out there who don’t care what the Bible says, so with those folks, you’re going to have a lot of trouble finding common ground. But increasingly, there are people who call themselves Bible-believing Christians who will claim that the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexuality. That claim is false. It is a myth.

I could spend a long time on this, but as you’ll see, this is going to be a long post already, so briefly:

In Genesis 2.18-25 we have the beautiful account of the creation of Eve, and the clear, direct idea is that woman was created for companionship with man. Man was incomplete without her. This fact has strong implications, and we’ll return to it later, but for now, the idea is that God had a plan, God had a design, and that design was for man and woman to be together.

Later in Genesis 19 we have the destruction of the city of Sodom. Now, people who claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality will try to argue that the city of Sodom was destroyed because they showed a lack of hospitality toward the men/angels who visited Lot. And certainly that was true—it was not a hospitable place!—and I have no problem acknowledging that inhospitality was one of many sins that Sodom was destroyed for. Other sins include: violence, rape (or attempted rape), oppression of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16.49), and, yes, homosexuality. If you were taking a multiple choice quiz about the sins of Sodom, the answer would be “E. All of the Above”. It was a wicked place.

Homosexuality is also explicitly condemned in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18.22; 20.13).

Moving on to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul forcefully addresses the issue of homosexuality in Romans 1.18-32, and he also includes it in lists of sinful practices in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 and 1 Timothy 1.8-10. Arguments that Paul is referring to some other practice in these texts and that he was unaware of consensual homosexual relationships like we have today are supported neither by the Greek text nor the testimony of history.

Sometimes you’ll hear people argue that Jesus never specifically condemned it, but even that is inaccurate. Jesus did condemn sexual immorality (Matthew 19.9) and fornication (Matthew 15.19), which would include any sexual intercourse outside of marriage…and Jesus defined marriage as being between one man and one woman (Matthew 19.4-6) just as God created it in the Garden of Eden and as it was described in Genesis 2.

If you study the Bible and are honest about what it says, you have to reach one of two conclusions: either homosexuality is wrong, or the Bible is wrong. You can’t claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality.

Myth 2: Homosexuality is the Chief of Sins.

Now, you might not actually hear someone say this, but if we’re honest about it, this is how we act sometimes. We sure get a lot more worked up about this sin than a lot of other sins.

Those sin lists that Paul makes where he includes homosexuality in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 8? They also include sins like adultery, greed, drunkenness, lying, gossip, envy…When was the last time you saw a bunch of Christians up in arms on Facebook because of gossip or greed or envy?

Or even if you just want to narrow it to sexual sins, there are a lot more heterosexuals than homosexuals in this country who are violating God’s laws about sexual behavior. We don’t seem to get as upset about that for some reason. Maybe because that’s a temptation that many of us understand better, or maybe because our culture has already compromised on that sin a long time ago!

A lot of times, if you hold to the biblical teaching on homosexuality—that it is a sin—you are branded as a hateful bigot. And that’s too bad. I don’t hate homosexuals; I don’t think most Christians do either. But when we use all of our moral outrage on this one issue, and we’re not consistent in the way we oppose other kinds of sin (including the ones like gossip and greed and lying that we tend to wink at), I can understand how some gay people could think that we hate them, because to them it seems like we only focus on their sin.

But homosexuality is not the chief of sins. It’s just one of many that we need to oppose.

Myth 3: There is No Difference between Homosexual Attraction and the Practice of Homosexuality.

This is a huge myth, because there is a huge difference: it’s the difference between temptation and sin. It’s the difference between orientation and behavior.

When you go back and look at those sin lists that Paul writes which we’ve already referred to a couple of times, he talks about practicing homosexuality, the physical act of it. That is a sin. We need to distinguish that practice from the temptation. Temptations are not sin. I know that because the Bible teaches that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, and yet was without sin (you can read about some of those temptations in Matthew 4). So it’s not sinful to be tempted; it’s sinful to give in to your temptations.

Sometimes in these discussions I think we get on shaky ground when we try to argue about whether or not people are born with a homosexual orientation. And honestly, if you keep up with this stuff, the science is still out on this. Scientists don’t know; they argue it both ways. We do know that our genetic makeup greatly influences our lives, but that also the environment in which we are raised greatly influences us.

But I’ll be honest with you, if science came out and definitively said that yes, some people are born with an inclination toward homosexual feelings, it really wouldn’t bother me, because my experience already leads me to believe that some people are naturally more inclined towards certain temptations than others.

For some who are reading this, the temptation for greed is so high. It’s so easy to find yourself thinking about how you can get more money, more possessions. For others, the temptation to gossip is so strong. When you find out information about someone—maybe a brother or sister in Christ—it is such a struggle to not gleefully pass that on. For others, the temptation of drunkenness or lust is a strong one, while others may never feel those temptations at all.

The point is, we’re different! Sins that are really tempting for me may not be tempting for you. Sins that are really tempting for you may not be tempting for me.

But we need to realize that homosexual attraction is a temptation. It’s giving in to that temptation that is sin. Christians who struggle with this temptation—like all temptations—need our sympathy, our compassion, and support, not our derision, or our judgment, or our cruel jokes.

Myth 4: America is a Christian Nation.

The United States was established on certain Christian principles, and there is a respect for the sovereignty of God and the teachings of Scripture that run deep within the heritage of our country. And if that’s what you mean in saying that America is a Christian nation, I get your point, and I agree.

However…

The United States of America is not a Christian nation, because as a nation, we don’t live according to the principles of Christ.

If America was a Christian nation, we wouldn’t have an economy based largely on greed where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If America was a Christian nation, we wouldn’t legally permit the slaughter of nearly one million of our own unborn children each year and call it a medical procedure. And yes, if America was a Christian nation, we wouldn’t be debating about whether or not we can “re-define” marriage when God has already clearly defined it. And we could go on and on.

But at an even more basic level, America is not a Christian nation because “Christian nations” do not exist. 

God doesn’t have a country; He has a kingdom. And by the way, if you are a Christian, that is where your primary allegiance should lie—not the United States! God’s Kingdom—or God’s reign, His rule—will one day extend over all that is. But for now, the Bible teaches that Satan is the ruler of this world. Sure, God is ultimately in charge and the Bible teaches that He is involved in the rise and fall of kings and nations…but right now, God’s Kingdom, His reign and His rule, is seen primarily in the Church and in the lives of individual Christians and the light that they shine.

It is not seen in our government or our laws. The United States is not the Kingdom of God.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t be upset over the direction that our country is going. If you care about the US (as I do), then that’s a natural response. And we see in Luke 13 and Matthew 23 that Jesus lamented over the city of Jerusalem because of the way that it rejected prophets and was going to reject Him and the punishment that would come as a result—the city was leveled in AD 70 by the Romans. It’s okay to be sad when our country makes decisions that go against God’s laws and desires.

It also doesn’t mean that we can’t desire or use our political voice to try and reflect Kingdom values in our country. But I think it does mean that we should quit expecting our country to look like the Kingdom of God. Because it’s not that. I think as Christians, we need to quit being surprised when lost people act like they’re lost. How else are they going to act? We should expect the world to act like the world.

To me, that means that engaging in culture wars and arguing with people about gay marriage shouldn’t be our primary concern. Don’t misunderstand me: if someone asks me my opinion on gay marriage, you better believe that I’ll tell them. If I have the chance to vote on it, you can rest assured that I will use my vote to reflect the values of the Kingdom.

But what I’m not going to do is obsess over the fact that the U.S. doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God, because why would it? It’s not that.

Instead, I need to focus on making and maturing disciples to be like Jesus Christ! That’s what my mission is. That’s how I expand the borders of God’s Kingdom; not by arguing with people on Facebook.

Myth 5: The Direction in which America is Heading is Bad for the Church.

Related somewhat to the last idea, I think there is a general feeling that the direction our country is headed—a direction away from the teachings of God and Scripture—is a bad thing for the church.But I’m not sure that’s true. Hear me out…

I expect that as time goes on, the policies and laws of our nation will increasingly stray from the teachings of Scripture. I expect that to happen. As a result, I think our country will increasingly become a hostile environment for Christians.

And I firmly believe that God will bless us in that environment.

For one thing, it says that in Scripture. Jesus says in Matthew 5.11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

But also, this idea is borne out in history.

Starting in the Book of Acts we see that when the church was persecuted, it didn’t put an end to the church—it just enabled the church to spread! What began as a movement in Jerusalem spread throughout Judea, Samaria, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome and beyond when Saul of Tarsus and others like him began to persecute the church.

That continued later on. Emperors like Nero and Domitian persecuted Christianity and tried to stamp it out—they had Christians beheaded and burned at the stake—but the church continued to grow. Tertullian, a Christian of the 2nd century, said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” When the church is persecuted, fair-weather lukewarm Christians are weeded out, and those who remain do great things!

But keeping our gaze on the past, we also see the reverse is true.

In 313 AD, the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity all across the Roman Empire—no longer would Christians be persecuted—and soon thereafter, Christianity became the official religion of the Empire. And that sounds like a good thing to us, but really it wasn’t a healthy thing for the church at all! Christianity became trendy and popular; it was something that people signed up for like a social club.

Lukewarm faith, questionable motives, and pagan backgrounds combined to produce a lot of practices which led people away from the truth of Scripture. Christianity was a name they wore, but not a cross they carried daily.

Fast forward hundreds and hundreds of years…when I look around at our culture, our so-called “Christian nation”, that’s what I see; a nation of lukewarm Christianity filled with people who claim the name of Christ but don’t really follow Him. People who instead worship money, or success, or a flag.

An American government that has largely been friendly to the values and ideas of Christianity for the last couple of hundred years hasn’t really been great for the church; it’s just made it easy for Christians to get comfortable living in this world and to forget that we are supposed to be citizens of another.

If our country continues to turn away from God’s commandments and teachings, I think it will become increasingly hostile toward Christians. And maybe that’s exactly what we need to wake us up!

If what we care about is our comfort, then the direction in which our country is headed is certainly troubling. But if we care about the health and growth of the church, then I think we need to look to the future with a bold confidence in what lies ahead.

Conclusion

We’ve been talking about myths:

  • Is it true that the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexuality? No, the Bible does condemn it. As Christians, we need to know this truth and be able to share it.
  • Is it true that homosexuality is the chief of sins? No, it isn’t. And if we want to have a witness that the world will listen to, we have got to be consistent. We have to speak out against all sins, not just this one.
  • Is it true that there is no difference between homosexual attraction and the practice of homosexuality? No, there’s a huge difference: the difference between temptation and sin. People who struggle with this temptation need our support and our prayer, not our condemnation and our disdain.
  • Is it true that America is a Christian nation? No, God has a Kingdom, not a country. The fact that our country doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God shouldn’t surprise us; it should make us seek to spread the borders of the Kingdom and look eagerly for our home with God.
  • Is it true that the direction in which America is heading is bad for the church? I don’t think so. The Bible teaches and history bears witness that when we are persecuted for the sake of Christ, the church is blessed. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or comfortable, but it should fill us with courage and purpose.

This post has talked extensively about the Kingdom of God; it’s God’s mission to save the world through His Son Jesus, and as Christians—as citizens of God’s Kingdom—we join with Him on that mission. Inherently, that means that we don’t live hidden and cut off from our culture, but rather, actively engaged in it. I know this is a complicated and emotionally-charged issue, but I think it is incredibly important that we get the truth about these myths straight in our minds if we are going to be salt and light and engage our world in the proper tone and from the right perspective.

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