SYNOPSIS: Contrary to the claims of many politically-motivated church leaders, Jesus is the “light of the world,” not any nation, a system of government or political ideology.
Politicians routinely invoke God to validate their ideology and office. Whatever religion is perceived as the most popular at any given moment, is so employed to validate a political agenda. Just as today’s officeholders pay lip service to “Judeo-Christian values,” so pagan emperors of Rome appealed to the traditional gods for divine approval. Patriotism and religious faith become indistinguishable; lack of nationalistic fervor is tantamount to religious heresy.
Too often Church leaders participate in this idolatrous game, especially when partisan feelings run high. The inevitable result is the close association or even identification of God, Jesus, and Christianity with a nation, ideology or political party.
The problem is especially acute in the United States of America. Within Evangelical circles, it is routine, if not a required ritual, to categorize America as a “Christian nation,” as if one’s place of birth defined his or her religious beliefs. So much so, preachers often proclaim the United States to be the “light of the world,” a “shining city set on a hill” to other nations.
Statements like this contradict the claims of Jesus. He declared, “I am the light of the world.” The identity and nature of God can only be found in Jesus, there is no truth or life apart from him (John 8:12, 9:5, 14:6-11, Acts 13:47, 26:23).
Because they reflect his image, followers of Christ are “lights of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16), the “city set on a hill.” They must let their “light shine before men so that they may glorify their Father in heaven.” The light found in Jesus and reflected in his Church is to illuminate all nations. Christ gave his life for the entire world, not for any single nation, ethnic group, culture, or political system (John 3:16).
Any attempt to associate or identify Jesus with a specific nation, political group or ideological agenda is a political conceit, if not idolatry and blasphemy. The Bible labels Jesus as the “light of the world,” not western civilization, democracy, free-market capitalism, or the United States of America. That some Christians embrace such sentiments only demonstrates how far from the biblical ideal many have strayed.
There is no true light, liberty, peace or life apart from Jesus. Scripture declares that the church, a body of Spirit-filled believers that transcends all national, cultural and ethnic boundaries, is the true People of God, His “holy nation” and a priestly kingdom called to mediate the light of Christ in a dark world. Super patriotism and national idolatry can only hinder this task.
Jesus did not establish his church to propagate democracy or American political ideals. Instead, the church is to proclaim the kingdom of God and summon all men and women to submit to the lordship of its king, Jesus Christ.
Christians are a pilgrim people in this fallen world, their true citizenship is in the kingdom of God. To be a loyal citizen in God’s kingdom means total allegiance to its ruler. There is no room for dual citizenship or conflicted loyalties. All other existing regimes sooner or later will cease to exist (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:1-2).
Neither the government of the United States nor its society has ever acknowledged or submitted to the absolute lordship of Jesus. By definition, it is other than Christian, a part of the existing world order already judged on the Cross and destined to nonexistence. All the forms and institutions of this age are already in the process of passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).
The immersion of American Evangelicals into the political arena has diverted them from their paramount task: to proclaim the gospel to all nations. Too many forget who and what they are, the people of God called to reflect the light of Christ.
Jesus did not task his church to “engage the culture,” reform society, or political systems. The existing world order is destined for destruction, its fate sealed. In the light of New Testament teaching, it makes no sense to expend time and resources on what has already been judged on Calvary. Why work for the “meat that perishes?”
This is not a call to disengage from the world but, instead, to reengage with the biblical means – to become witnesses of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God can only be advanced by men and women living cruciform lives that reflect the light of Jesus.
The churches of America need to return to the biblical faith; to “remember from where we have fallen, repent and do the first works, lest Jesus come and remove our lampstand out of its place.” Otherwise one day they will discover they serve the Beast.