In this week’s sermon I ask you whether or not you think we live in a Christian nation. I qualified my statement and sharpened the question in order to come to the conclusion that this is perhaps the wrong question. Yet, it is a question that I can safely say seems prevalent in the minds of many American Christians. Otherwise, books like “The Harbinger” would not be at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. “The Harbinger” posits that the Bible contains ancient mysteries that foretell the secret of America’s future and puts our nation on par with Israel as if we are in covenant with God.
There’s a danger in books and ideologies that champion these ideas. And that danger is egotistical ethnocentrism. What do I mean by that? I mean that it is arrogant and self-centered to think so highly of ourselves as if our nation has been chosen by God. And if it were, is that anything to boast in? Persia was chosen by God—but not for its biblical and religious fidelity. God chose a donkey to do His will (Numbers 22:22-35)—He can choose whomever or whatever He wishes.
Peter calls us elect exiles. We too have been chosen—not as a nation, but as part of the church—not because of anything good in us, but by God’s mercy. And as exiles, we belong to another kingdom. In other words, it is antithetical to ask whether we live in a Christian nation for our kingdom is not of this world. While we are here, we are merely sojourners—temporary residents. In fact, the Bible compares our bodies to tents—temporary shelters. We are temporary residents, living in temporary shelters. I say all that to say, don’t get too comfortable with this world. Don’t place too many of your hopes in this world. You will set yourself up for disappointment and be living a false dichotomy. You belong to a totally different world. And your guide to that world resides within the pages of Scripture. It is the world that we will be exploring in First Peter.