The Christian and His Nation
The fate of a nationthat is a very serious subject!
The nation, especially our nation, that lives and grows in freedom, is a marvelous thing. When committed to moral values and the affording of Christian opportunity, that nation can move into broad sunlit uplands of prosperity and privilege and even leadership among the nations of the world. It can bring those same blessings to its people in the form of secure homes, safe streets, economic opportunity and a sense of well-being which is increasingly hard to find in our troubled world. A nation that is living and growing, which is handling well the adventure of life in our times, is the object of the pride and happy participation of its grateful citizens.
Conversely, a nation which is dying faces a fate which is a horror to contemplate. The death of a nation is not a mere sociological phenomenon. No, indeed. It is revolution, arson, pillage, rape, murder and wholesale destruction.
It is citizens looting hospitals, carting off priceless antiquities, robbing the future and the past from their own people, as was seen in post-war Iraq.
It is dictators attempting to hold the free world hostage at nuclear missile-point in the hope of extorting aid, food, and economic trade to shore up a collapsing economy, as was seen in recent threats by North Korea.
It is the betrayal of former allies, with nations attempting to conceal their infidelities and bolster what remains of their economies, as was seen in the attempts of the French to form a new axis to compete with NATO and the United States.
It is one desperate act after another, with little regard as to possible outcome. The most dangerous people in the world are those who feel they have nothing to lose.
For a nation which is dying, it is darkness at noon and the expiration of a culture.
What, then, makes the difference between life and death in a culture? What determines the fate of a nation? We can be thankful that we have the answer to that vital question in the Word of God. Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov. 14:34). The quality which is, therefore, of the greatest importance in determining the fate of a nation is national righteousness. Above and beyond all the human viewpoints which are so freely available in our time, the voice of God, the divine direction must be made known. The Psalmist David said, The Lord brings the counsel of the heathen to nothing: He makes the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations (Ps. 33:10,11). Therefore, the solution to the difficulties faced by any nation lies in the admonition, Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him (Ps. 33:8).
In the last analysis, therefore, the fate of a nation has to do with its relationship to God. The life or the death of the culture is finally determined by the presence or the absence of the blessing of God. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the Bible says (Ps. 33:12). Conversely, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God (Ps. 9:17).
In the light of this inescapable truth, we do well to face the question of the posture and activity of Christians and of the Church in a world like this. Considering the teaching of the Word of God, what should be the activity of Christian leaders and of individual believers as relates to their nation in such a time as this? Thank God that in the United States, we can still intelligently discuss this question. The sobering fact is that the question of Christian activity is a dead issue in many of the nations of the world. The ability of believers in these enslaved cultures is a minimal and dangerous thing at best. We can rejoice that the contrast, the spiritual opportunity, is still available to us in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
What, then, should be the course of action, the external activity of the believing community, vis-a-vis the world? There can be no doubt that there are a number of most necessary activities on the part of believers if the nation is to avoid anarchy and desolation.
We must continue to bring to the external world the knowledge of God. Without a doubt, the first form of this activity is in the preaching of the Word of God in our churches. Our pulpits must never leave, indeed they must return again to the over-arching themes of Christian theology. Who is God? What is man? What is sin? From where comes redemption? These themes must always and ever be lifted from Christian pulpits.
But beyond this, the message of the knowledge of God and the righteousness that exalts a nation must be projected out from our church buildings into the minds and hearts of people in society at large. Christians meeting on Sunday morning are not the end-all of spiritual activity. Indeed, these meetings are the means to the end, the equipping of the Church to make its impact upon the world.
The external activity of the Church, however, is complicated by the need for the cooperation of government. The reaching out of Christians inevitably demands the use of the airwaves, cooperation with the postal service, passports, visas, licenses, contracts, easements, and a hundred other government related activities. They demand the purchase of equipment, the hiring of people, permits, taxes, etc. All external activity by the Church in the performance of its mission demands interaction with society. Another word for this interaction ... is politics.
Politics should not be thought of, therefore, as something isolated from life, religion or any other activity. Politics is simply the way people interact with one another on some kind of an official basis. It might be possible to imagine a world without politics if that world contained only one person ( and perhaps, his loving wife, but even this is not certain). Beyond that, forget it. More than two people produce something called society and society must be organized. The organization of societythats politics.
Christians, because they are not yet living in heaven, are living in a human society. Therefore, like it or not, they must eat food, arrange for water and sewers, and interact with their neighbors. To say, therefore, that a Christian is not or should not be involved in politics is a simple absurdity. It is to live in a dream world and not the real world. Christians have occasionally attempted to deny this by moving to the desert, starting a commune or establishing an isolated community off in the hills somewhere. These attempts have always come to nothing. Such fantasies are an embarrassment to all.
Back to the real world, Christians must lift a voice against specific inequities in society. Unfortunately, however, this is the age of generalized Christianity. Christians are generally against general sin and for general goodness. Lest we should offend the world, we have become Christian generalists. No wonder our revivals close far fewer saloons than they did in the days of D. L. Moody.
The prophets and the preachers of the past did not think this way. Who can fail to remember the telling conversation between the prophet Nathan and King David? Moving from the general to the specific, Nathan, with fire in his eyes, said to David, You are the man! (II Sam. 12:7). Nathan continued by saying, Wherefore have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
The same kind of courage and conviction was certainly the case with John the Baptist when he stood before Herod the king. Referring to the kings illicit marriage to Herodius, he pointedly addressed the sovereign saying, It is not lawful for you to have her (Matt. 14:4).
Because all men have not faith, these wrongs and shames will not be ameliorated only by the preaching of the Word. For those who are not believers, God has ordained another method for the preservation of a level of righteousness within society. That other method is civil authority. Civil authority, the government, must, therefore, have the moral message which can only come from the Bible in order to properly conduct itself. Even Abraham Lincoln agreed that it was impossible to govern apart form the Bible. The influence of Christians in calling for this kind of righteousness in a nation is, therefore, imperative. This influence does well to also take the form of Christians, themselves, becoming involved in the very machinery of government decisions.
Believers are to insist on just actions and attitudes on the part of government leaders. In the Word of God, this activity included Christians insisting on their rights as citizens and demanding that the government properly respect those rights.
In the days of the early Church, the Apostle Paul was thrown into prison in Philippi. This was done in violation of his rights as a Roman citizen and it functioned as a limitation to his spiritual opportunity. Before the episode was finished, the Apostle Paul expressed an attitude which, in our time, would be seen as an exception to Christian humility. Paul had no such view. The magistrates became frightened at the rumor of Pauls Roman citizenship and they sent someone to free Paul, hoping that he would go in peace. Here the Word says, But Paul said to them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out(Acts 16:37).
One smiles at this story, imagining the scene that followed. But let us note that here, the Apostle Paul openly demanded proper conduct on the part of the government and even humble activity on the part of its leaders. This certainly would be called political manipulation on the part of many in our time. Who can doubt that the Apostle Paul would instantly answer, So be it.
We are told in the Scriptures that the ruler of a nation is the minister of God to you for good (Rom. 13:4). Because of this, the Christian is to pay his taxes, to support the customs of government and to even sponsor an honor dinner for the magistrate if he deserves it (Rom. 13:7).
We have a most interesting promise which is given to us in the Word of God. This promises that the diligent individual will be actually rewarded by God with an opportunity to consort with the leaders of government and influence its policies. So it is that the Word says, Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before obscure men (Prov. 22:29).
The privilege of interaction with and influence upon the leaders of our society is not given to many. There are millions of Christians in America who pray for their leaders as, indeed, we are admonished to do. The actual influence upon those leaders is, however, limited to a small number of diligent Christian leaders who have been given that opportunity. We may rejoice that in our time there are those who have been enabled of God to stand before the kings of our nation and of other nations with an earnest and faithful Christian witness. Too often, these distinguished men and women are the object of foolish criticism on the part of others for exercising what the Bible teaches is an opportunity and reward from God.
There can be no doubt that this just God who presides above the destinies of nations, as said Thomas Jefferson, will work His will in the world. There can also be no doubt that He will use diligent human instrumentality to bring that will to pass. There is no question but that the greatest and most immediate instrument which God has in our world is the Church, its people, its leaders, its articulate spokesmen, its diligent princes. If we affirm the doctrine of human instrumentality, and who but the supra-lapsarians would deny it, then let us hold that the Church and its people are a great instrument for God in todays world. Having preached that God presides above the nations, let us act in the name of that conviction.
What shall we do? We must do what we can. Thank God that in America, we can do very much. Having been given the opportunity to do much, shall not this be required of us?
From the writings of Dave Breese with Dave Weeden
Destiny Newsletter continued