Thursday, November 06, 2008

We, the Christian People of the United States of America...

I am trying to put together in my mind what I see as a weakness in the American Christian's view of our government, and our expectations that we have in it. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what we expect, but I have something of a list, and I think it's fairly accurate if too short. It isn't to criticize American Christians; it is only to point out what I think could cause us to dive headlong into despair if we are to depend on a "righteous" government and not on Christ. We should always put our trust entirely on Christ, and not on our government. Humanity cannot govern perfectly, because we are not perfect, and because the power inherent in government appeals to the pride of man. Psalm 118:9, "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes," and Psalm 146:3, "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation," are verses that together express that very same thought.
The following are ways that I see that because we have never known anything different, American Christians may be more part of the American culture than of the sheer biblical Christian culture that I hope and suspect is more prevalent worldwide:
1. We tend to assume that we are by our very American citizenship, because we are born here, entitled to freedom of religion (freedom to assemble for worship or Bible study, and acceptance of the fact that we are Christians), freedom of expression (regarding proselytizing, wearing expressions of faith on clothing, Christian radio stations, certain subjects in sermons, etc.), and that we would expect the government to promote family unity and allow us a choice in how our children are educated, such as homeschooling or private school as alternatives to public school. These expectations are because we have enjoyed them in the past; we have been raised with most of these freedoms. It is hard for us to imagine life here without them.
2. We tend to assume that our government should embrace and reflect our beliefs as belonging to the entire population, with the Ten Commandments in our courtrooms and parks, and with Christmas decor and Christmas carols in public places and with Christian beliefs reflected in our public schools, from prayer to Christmas break to Bible classes. The fact that God is Lord of all doesn’t mean that He will be acknowledged as such by earthly governments, or that our own government will continue to do so even though it has to various extents done so in the past.
3. We tend to assume that our government should legislate faithfulness to God by banning at least the extreme expressions of sin and rebellion: abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and the more accepted but no more acceptable other sins as well. These behaviors are becoming more and more sanctioned by our government as time goes on, and aren't likely to be reversed any time soon.
4. We tend to assume that it is our right to live physically comfortable and financially prosperous lives when in fact there is nothing of our faith or our lives that should cause us to expect such comfort. Most Christians throughout the world do not experience nearly the comfort that we Americans do. And there is nothing we Americans have done to deserve any more comfortable lives than anyone else, especially so many Christians in the most difficult circumstances elsewhere in the world. So many Christians not only live less comfortably but are persecuted while their government ignores or even originates the persecution.
It may be arguable that our government should honor some of these things, but it is unrealistic that we should be able to expect any government to actually do what it ought to. No Bible verse said that earthly, human government is a good thing, that governments wouldn’t be prone to being corrupt and doing evil. It was never assured that we could live in happy freedom under human government. In fact, it is clearly an accommodation of humanity’s demands that Israel ever got away with demanding an end to the theocracy that characterized the first part of their existence. There are various ways that American Christians might assume that our life of faith ought to be acknowledged, supported, and defended, but Jesus never taught that we should expect it. We are to pray for those in authority over us; remember 1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to see a president come to know Christ while in office--but who says it couldn't happen? Wouldn't that be fantastic! Lets keep our presidents, present and future, in prayer and hope that we might witness such a change in times to come. Meanwhile, let us be content with (and thankful for) what God gives us, and pray, and watch for His provision and His goodness, His lovingkindness and grace, like no government on earth can ever provide.

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