The Church Part 3: A Christian Nation?

Consider this bold statement, “The weapons of our your warfare [talking to the church] are not worldly” (2 Cor. 10:4).  When we as the church are tempted to use human means to bring about God’s kingdom in our life and in our nation, we must ponder these words of Paul.  We have mightier weapons than swards.  We have greater power than guns and grenades: Other-worldly weapons. As we preach the gospel to the world, as we build relationships with lost people that they may come to know Jesus, as we fight sin through the spirit, we are using spiritual weapons.

Sadly, the christian church in America often decides to put down their all powerful spiritual weapons and instead pick up a dull, broken, ineffective weapon: the government.  Consider the words of John Fea in Christianity Today,

For nearly 400 years Americans have been conflating the message of the Bible with the fate of the country. Ever since the Puritan John Winthrop said that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a “city on a hill” Americans have seen themselves as God’s chosen people—a new Israel with a special destiny.

More and more we hear the cry to make America a Christian nation again.  We have pervasive in our christian culture an unbiblical blur between the church and the government. This cry for a “christian nation,” on the surface seems bold and commendable and in some sense it can be.  Jesus calls us to make disciples of all “nations” or “peoples”.  We want to see all people in America come to Jesus. In this sense we want to make America a “christian nation.” But behind this cry to have a “Christian America” is often a desire for a government that rewards people for being Christians and marginalize  those who do not follow Jesus such as Muslims and Atheists.  Here is a big problem with this:

Consider the the weapons God calls the church to use and those God calls the government to use as well as the motives behind each:

  • The Church: “The weapons of our warfare are not worldly” (2 Cor. 10:4).
  • The Government: “They are called to bear the sword and punish those who do wrong” (Rom. 13:1-7)

The church needs to learn to do it’s own work and we must not desire a government that does the work of the church.  The church must not desire that the government force people to “be christian” because the government exists to force people to be obedient to the law, not the gospel. Here is the main reason: Those who come to Christ must do it willingly with a genuine heart.  Convert or die does not work in the Christian faith nor does convert or be marginalized.  This is because it will never bring about the desired effect: true faith.

Furthermore, the government should not show favoritism to christians over those of other faiths.  The reason is the same.  When people come to Jesus because it is easy or because they will be treated better by the government, they are not truly coming to Jesus. A government requiring or encouraging christian conversion will lead to pervasive false faith. [1] It is the work of the church, not the government to preach the gospel.  One of the root motives behind desiring the government to be “christian” is one of laziness.  The church in America has practically become devoid of all power and failing their work of reaching its communities with the gospel.  We feed the poor, play music, have spaghetti  dinners, and update our church signs with funny jokes while all the while remaining silent about heaven and hell, failing to call sinners to repent and believe.  This is what often pushes church goers to have this unbiblical perspective that we have to make our country christian so that the church can grow again.  The problem with this is simple, it is the job of the Church to be christian, not the government.

Consider the idea of Separation of Church and State in light of the following passages

Matthew 22:21 21They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

John 18:36 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

2 Corinthians 10:3–43For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

With that being said, even though the church and state should be separate, Christians are called to be involved in government influence and even political offices. This comes out of a love for society and a desire to live a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim. 2:2, 2 Thess. 4:11).  If we love our neighbor, we would seek, in peaceful nonviolent means, to influence and pressure our government to uphold Christian values and morals such as traditional marriage, and the sanctity of life for the sake of human flourishing.  This is part of what it means to love your neighbor.

Also see our other posts on the church:

The Church Part 1: Nature & Purposes

The Church Part 2: What are the Keys of the Kingdom?

[1] This is why I have a problem with calling a nation a “Christian nation”.  A better term would be a nation of (many) Christians.  The latter suggest that being a citizen means you are a Christian and you are expected to abide by Christians standards.  This leads to many false Christians who have no salvation and churches full of unregenerate problem causers (Jude 19).

 

 

 

 

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