Contrary to the claims of political operatives, Jesus is the light of the world, and his disciples are summoned to reflect him.
From time immemorial, political leaders and their cheerleaders have invoked “god” to validate their agendas and governments, and the most popular religion is employed to do so. Just as today’s officeholders pay lip service to “Judeo-Christian values,” so the emperors of Rome appealed to their traditional gods for divine approval.
In this idolatrous endeavor, patriotism and religious faith become synonymous, lack of nationalistic fervor is heresy, and the nation is identified with the preferred religion. “America was raised up by God to be a city on a hill and a beacon of light to all nations,” so said one populist preacher.
And so, many church leaders participate in this pantomime, especially when partisan feelings run high. The inevitable result is the close association or even identification of God, Jesus, and Christianity with a nation, economic model, political ideology, or party.
ILLUMINATING THE WORLD?
The problem is especially acute in the United States of America. In its popular forms, preachers routinely categorize America as a “Christian nation,” as if a man’s place of birth defines his religious beliefs. And all too often, they proclaim this country to be the “light of the world” established by God so it will illuminate all humanity.
The issue is not whether America is good, bad, or indifferent. But such statements contradict the words of Jesus who declared, “I am the light of the world!” The identity and nature of God can only be found in him, and there is no truth or life apart from him. When Christians claim anyone or anything else is the light, they engage in idolatry – (John 14:6-11, 8:12, 9:5, Acts 13:47, 26:23).
And because they reflect HIM, the followers of Jesus are to become “lights of the world,” the “city set on a hill,” and so they are to let their “light shine before men so that they may glorify their Father in heaven.”
And in his illustration, the image of a “hill” represents the entire world, and the “city” symbolizes his disciples, his “assembly,” the Ekklésia of Jesus.
And the light reflected in his disciples is the light that illuminates all nations. Christ gave his life for the entire world, not just for one nation, ethnic group, culture, or political system – (Matthew 5:13-16, John 3:16).
Any attempt to associate and even identify Jesus and Christianity with specific nations and political ideologies is by its nature idolatrous and contrary to Scripture. The Bible labels Jesus as the “light of the world,” not western civilization, democracy, or free-market capitalism. When we proclaim that democracy is the world’s “hope” or “light,” we make it into a counterfeit religion.
That many Christians embrace such sentiments demonstrates just how far from the biblical ideal we have fallen. Or perhaps, more accurately, just what a terrible job our church leaders have done instructing their flocks.
ONLY ONE TRUE LIGHT
There is no true light, liberty, peace, or life apart from Jesus. Scripture declares that the church, the body of Spirit-filled believers, transcends all national, cultural, and ethnic boundaries. It is the true people of God, His “holy nation,” and the priestly kingdom that is called to mediate his light in a very dark world, including in the United States of America.
Jesus did not establish his church to propagate democracy and “western civilization.” Instead, his body is tasked with proclaiming the kingdom of God, summoning all men and women to repent and submit to the lordship of its king, Jesus Christ while the opportunity remains.
Christians are called to be pilgrim people in this fallen age, and their true citizenship is in the kingdom of God. To be a citizen of His domain means giving total allegiance to its sole ruler. And that leaves no room for dual citizenship or conflicted loyalties. Furthermore, by the time Jesus returns, all existing regimes will cease to exist, and only the kingdom of God will be left standing – (1 Corinthians 7:31, 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 (nor has Canada, Australia, the European Union, etc.). By default, it is other than Christian, a part of the existing world order that was judged on Calvary.
The immersion of American Christians into partisan politics has diverted us from our paramount task – To proclaim the gospel to all nations. We forget who and what we are.
Jesus did not call us to “engage the culture,” reform society, or fix the political system. The existing order is destined for destruction, its fate is sealed. So, why do so many continue to “work for the meat that perishes”?
The New Testament does not call disciples to disengage from the world, but to reengage it using biblical means: with prayer, witness, acts of mercy, and self-denying service to others. In other words, to become witnesses for Jesus Christ, the “shining city on a hill.”
The kingdom of God cannot be advanced by the ballot box, military might, or economic and political power, but only through men and women who live cruciform lives that reflect his light and proclaim HIS kingdom to the nations of the earth.