Friday, January 03, 2014
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." - (1 Peter 2:13-17)
More and more I find that there is a blurred line in American Christianity between "The American Way" and "The Kingdom of God".
The Kingdom of God and the American Dream are not the same thing, and in fact, they are two opposing viewpoints which are in conflict on many levels.
The American Dream is founded on the concept of every person's right to the pursuit of happiness. Whatever you can imagine would make you happy you are free to pursue it with all your heart. That's your right.
The Kingdom of God is founded on the concept of laying down your life, your idea of what will make you happy, in favor of receiving what Jesus knows will really make you happy.
Following Jesus involves laying down your life and giving up your rights. It means full and complete submission to God because you recognize that His perfect will for your life is a million times better than anything you could ever dream up, or pursue, on your own.
Jesus didn't ever instruct any of his disciples to fight for their God-given, "Inalienable Rights", and neither did Paul the Apostle. In fact, they both encouraged their disciples to live humble lives, serving others and not demanding more because they deserved more. Paul even specifically told those followers of Christ who were slaves to remain slaves, even if they were being mistreated.
Historically, the early Christians didn't fight for their rights as citizens, they took it on the chin, and in the Lion's den, and in the arena. They literally would rather die than to take another person's life.
Simply put, they followed their Lord and Savior, Jesus and they followed His example of non-violence and submissive service to those who hated and mistreated them. Does that sound like the American Dream to you?
We cannot afford to become distracted by nationalism or led astray by politics.
As followers of Jesus, He must be our one and only priority and influence. This is what it means to make Jesus our Lord.
As Christian pastor and activist Jim Wallis has said, "God is not a Republican or a Democrat. God is not partisan. God is not ideologically committed to our Left or Right. God's politics challenges all of our politics. It includes the people our politics regularly leave out; the poor and the vulnerable. That's God's politics."
It would have been virtually impossible for an unbeliever living in those first three hundred years of Church History to ever reject Christianity on the grounds that it lacked compassionate people or failed to teach loving kindness.
In fact, we have testimony from many of the most hostile pagans who lived during the first three hundred years of Christianity who were put to shame because of the overwhelming generosity of the Church. Julian, the Apostate wrote of this frustrating situation when he said, "..The godless Galileans feed not only their poor, but ours also."
Christian philosopher Aristides (125 AD) wrote about the radical charity of the early Church also, recording the fact that, "…if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast for three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food."
For a Christian, killing our enemies is not acceptable.
If being a good American citizen means you need to cheer on a war that kills innocent people then you must lay aside your Christianity.
If being a faithful member of a political party trumps over 2,000 verses in the word of God about caring for the poor, then you need to make a choice.
A few years ago I had an opportunity to speak to Jim Wallis on this very subject and his response has stayed with me ever since. He said:
"The Church today is more American than Christian. The Kingdom of God is not the same as the American Empire. When we are more American than Christian we confuse the meaning of the Body of Christ with any nation state. This notion of the Church as a counter-cultural movement is Biblically obvious. There's no doubt about that. We're in the world to transform the world for the sake of this new order that has come in Jesus Christ. If Jesus' vision of the Kingdom was so threatening, why is our vision of the Kingdom so safe?"
The Gospel of the Kingdom is not the American Dream.
It saddens me to see Christians more passionate about their political party than they are about the Kingdom of God.
(Death to the status quo/Constant Conversion)