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The Church and a Love of Country

There has been a lot of talk recently about how Christians and the church should relate to nations and politics. After all, as Christians, we are called to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-15). There are many who believe that this means that the church and Christians should be wholly separated from the world. This was part of the impetus behind the monastic movement. These men and women sought to devote their whole lives to the worship of the Lord and prayer and thought that the best way to accomplish this was to separate themselves from everything worldly. Comforts and connections were left behind for the sake of their devotion. This is an extreme example, but there are some similarities. There are some important things that we as Christians should wrestle with. We are going to look at some of those questions today.

The Church

The first question we are going to look at is the relationship between the church as an institution and nations. No question of the church's relationship to the state can be separated from Paul's words in Romans 13. He writes, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment" (v. 1-2). Simply put, the state is something that is instituted by God, and everyone, regardless of their eternal state, is subject to that authority. But the church is not a person. It is a separate institution with its own authority. The head of the church is Christ directly, and not through any other mediator. This makes the church and the state separate spheres of authority. But simply because they are separate does not mean that there is no overlap. Both have authority over the lives of people. Both deal with moral issues. The church and state are two parts of God's providential care for His creation. One is given the power of the sword and the other is given the keys of the kingdom.

Some Important things

In this discussion, there are some important things that we need to remember. There is no such thing as a neutral party. Jesus tells his disciples and the religious leaders, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Matthew 12:30). There is a line drawn in the sand. You are either on the side of Christ or you are not. The state, by extension, is made up of people, run by people, and gets its ideas and allegiances from its people. More than that, all actions are inherently religious actions. They are either done for the glory of God, or they are not (1 Corinthians 10:31). Again, there is no middle ground. Another important thing to think about is the difference between laws and sins. Not all laws cover moral issues. Some of them simply deal with good organization. But even in these situations, there is the issue of glorifying God. The last thing I want to bring to your attention is the distinction between institutions and people. Institutions have responsibilities and restrictions that people do not. For example, a church should not rule a local government, but a member of the church can.

Talking about The 4th

Today, on the 4th of July, we commemorate a pivotal moment in history when the United States declared independence from England. As we reflect on this significant day, it is essential to consider how our Christian faith intersects with our national identity. While we are called to prioritize our allegiance to Christ above all else, we are also encouraged to actively engage with and contribute to the well-being of the society we are part of )Jeremiah 29:4-7). For Christians, being part of a nation means more than just geographical belonging; it entails a responsibility to seek the common good and promote justice and righteousness within the country. The celebration of historical events such as the founding of the nation can serve as a reminder of the values and ideals that shape our collective identity. However, it is crucial to recognize the distinction between the role of the church and the role of the state. The church, as the body of Christ, operates as an entity that transcends earthly boundaries. It serves as a beacon of light in a world marred by darkness, representing the kingdom of God and embodying values of love, compassion, and grace. Therefore, while Christians are encouraged to participate in the civic life of their nation and celebrate significant milestones, they are also called to maintain a dual citizenship - one in their earthly country and another in the kingdom of God. This dual allegiance reminds believers that their ultimate loyalty lies with Christ, and their actions should reflect the values of the kingdom they represent on earth.

Seeking Clarity

The complexity lies in the nuanced distinction between the collective entity of the church and the individual believers who constitute it. Christians are not only called to engage with the world around them but also to actively contribute to the betterment of society while spreading the teachings of their faith to all corners of the globe. It is imperative for Christians to strive for the glorification of God in every aspect of their lives, whether it be through their personal celebrations or their involvement in governmental affairs. The fundamental principle that guides their actions is the unwavering commitment to their Christian identity, which should never be compromised. The church, on the other hand, is an institution with a singular devotion to the worship and adoration of the Lord. Its purpose is centered around exalting God and teaching people to exalt him. The cornerstone of the church's worship is the proclamation of scripture, which serves as the guiding light for its members. Consequently, the church's focus during Sunday Sabbath worship is entirely directed towards honoring God and cultivating a profound understanding of His divine nature. Given these distinctions, it is essential to recognize that while the church as an entity refrains from partaking in secular celebrations such as the 4th of July, individual Christians residing in the United States are free to engage in such festivities. However, regardless of the context, the overarching principle that should govern all actions is the relentless pursuit of glorifying God in everything. By aligning their lives with this ultimate goal, both the church and its members can fulfill their respective roles in the world while remaining steadfast in their devotion to the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

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