Many Christians in America have been proclaiming, “The church is a people, not a building,” yet their political agendas reflect a very different theology.
Obviously, the purpose of the Church is not found in buildings or organizations, but ultimately in reaching individuals. That’s simple – we both already knew that.
So how much sense would it make for a church to ostracize the people in the community in an effort to get a building? None. That’s counter productive to the very mission we are living to accomplish. My point is: we recognize that the church is a people.
Yet, within politics and foreign relations our actions seem to reflect a different understanding of Christianity. Our lives speak theological narratives that reflect theocratic tints to the looking glass through which we view our nation and the world.
I’m referencing the concept that a nation could ever legitimately be called a Christian Nation if Christianity is about reaching individuals in all nations. According to a study done in February of 2015, 57% of Republicans support declaring the United States a Christian Nation. This nationalistic conception of Christianity twists the scriptures - it denies fundamentals to Christianity. I am referencing the accuracy of belief as being wrong not the intentions. Previously, with the best intentions, I have both held and acted on the belief that a nation could be a Christian Nation. This belief can be held with good intentions, but good intentions do not necessarily make the belief or the actions good.
So, how does putting focus on having a “Christian Nation” dismantle the church from focusing on its actual mission?
What is the Mission of the Church?
In order to answer that we need to begin by asking, “What is the Mission of the Church?”
The Church is to be obedient participants in God’s mission to see His creation - all people - restored through salvation so that God might be glorified. We are to be reaching people with the good news so that they might be saved.
It’s not about just reaching people in this nation, but all nations. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Not just Americans - all people (Luke 3:6). Does that include terrorists? Does that include refugees? Does that include my neighbor? Yes. Everybody.
The end goal is not that we would eat and be merry; it’s not that we would live happily ever after; the end goal is that God would be glorified.
How Does Pursuing a “Christian Nation” Dismantle the Pursuit of this Mission?
Christians are called to be “in this nation,” but not “of this nation.”
God has called us to advance His Kingdom – to give our allegiance to him. Yet, he clearly said, “my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
“Ok, ok, sure that verse says that… but maybe he really wanted a HUGE Kingdom built in his name at the cost of many lives, but he just was to shy to mention it.”
Nope. It does not bring glory to God, to build an earthly Kingdom in His name that he never asked for. Putting our focus on an earthly Kingdom causes us to deviate from pursuing the mission he has called us to.
Reggie Joiner, the founder of the Rethink Group, put it this way, “The work of the church is more important than the work of nations, because the church transcends governments.”
One blogger, Kevin Bywater put it simply, “Our nations are not our churches.”
As Christians we must remember, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We don’t have dual citizenship – partially here, partially there. We are either fully committed citizens of heaven or we are not citizens of heaven.
Let me repeat that, we are either fully committed citizens of heaven or we are not citizens of heaven.
As Citizens of heaven, we cannot honestly pursue reaching people for the Kingdom of God, while we are busy trying to build a Kingdom for ourselves.
Will America be around in 100 years, in 10 years, or in 1 year? That is not the concern of the Christian. Our concern should be, “are individuals being restored in their relationship with God?”
Our identity must not be tied to a nation.
So, then how do we live?
Jesus was very political, but his politics were different. He offered an alternative way.
The world seeks power, yet Jesus humbled himself (Philippians 2:7-8).
The world seeks earthly wealth, yet Jesus said our treasure is in heaven (Matthew 6:20).
The world calls for retribution, yet Jesus called for restoration (Luke 19:10).
In one of his books Greg Boyd said, “We believe in our nation over and against their nation, our religion over and against their religion, our culture over and against their culture, our political ideology over and against their political ideology, and so on.” Then Greg goes on to describe this in contrast with the Kingdom of God, “The kingdom of God advances by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves.”
This is incredibly political. It’s not just a religious version of the normal. It’s a whole different way to live.
I have begun experimenting with what life might look like if we were to live this way. I am trying to put my sole focus on advancing God’s Kingdom.
I don’t have that much (which I guess is totally relative to my personal opinion of what much even is). I sold my car and bought a scooter. I got rid of almost half my books and want to get rid of even more. People often ask me, “didn’t you wear that shirt last week?” because I don’t have that many different shirts.
Not having much stuff removes a financial burden. I have no pressure to get a second job, I have no debt, I owe no man anything and am free to spend my finances as he leads me and to go where he calls me.
I’ll be honest. I’m still wrestling with what this means when it comes to the question of, “so, how does this influence the way I vote?” I’m just not sure.
I’m still trying to look for ways that I can better spend my resources, my time, and my gifts. I often spend a lot more money on coffee than I probably should and sometimes I sit on Netflix, because I’m not always sure what to do with my time.
The idea of “let’s reach people for Christ” is what I am committed to, but I often don’t know what the next step to take is.
What I do know is that the concept of having a Christian Nation is completely counter-intuitive to the Christian movement. I want to bring glory to God and I believe you do to.
I want my life to be about His mission and I believe you do to.
So take steps, God is bringing restoration to peoples lives, but will we be people who participate in accomplishing his mission?
Note: I believe it is crucial for Christians to be respectful citizens to far of extent that we can be, but our priority must be the Kingdom of God.