theolog shmeolog

On Easter Bunnies…(sort of)…OK, not really…

I am an American citizen. But, according to the Holy Spirit, I am first and foremost a subject in the kingdom of God—a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). I am supposed to be unafraid to be an alien (foreigner) and a stranger (wandering through a world in which I have no real and final citizenship – 1 Peter 2:11). Because of the rights which God has graciously granted me as a US citizen (which are actually privileges) and privileges accorded to me by God through the work of good men two centuries ago (who were biblically wrong in saying that these are God-given rights, but to whom God sovereignly afforded the right to be wrong about these things), I vote, I speak up–trying to think deeply, and hoping to speak plainly and clearly on how to be a Christian first and an American second. God helping me, I do this always with the idea of being what I am – a heavenly citizen who resides as an alien & pilgrim, and secondly an American citizen.[1]

I think I can do more in being a citizen, and perhaps you can too, but I will try not to use my own standards to judge the quality of your citizenship. And whether we are speaking of one’s heavenly or temporal citizenship, I will ask you to afford me the same kindness. Wherever you are, be there. Wherever you are going, journey with scripturally-taught purpose. If a standard is to be used for measuring, use the Scriptures, not some perceived idea.

Somehow I am to live and use the rights and privileges I have as an American and still obey these (and other commands from the Holy Spirit):  I am under ruling authorities, and am to obey and respect them, even if they are unreasonable–even if it ultimately means obeying as a servant–even if it means submitting myself to a tyrant.[2]

Having Said All That…

This little article is not the full embodiment of my views on this subject—it is not meant to be. So, having prefaced with all that, I look at Christian rhetoric on Facebook, personal weblogs, missives sent via email, and the content of personal conversations with other Christians, and I conclude the following:

We act like fearful rabbits. We write like frightened chocolate hollow Easter bunnies—afraid of the heat of a lost world. The only way that we are more fearful in our lives of what society, government and various movements of peoples can do to us, is in the quality and quantity of our fright in sharing the gospel with others—in our failure to live gospel lives which match our gospel message.

We are lions apparently when it comes to Islam. We are warriors when it comes to fighting for our so-called rights. We are ravenous bears when someone threatens our economic stability. But when there is an opportunity to write a check with our mouths that our lives can cash in regard to the Gospel, we’re rabbits.

We cower behind brave words of disgust, righteous indignation, and revolution. We hide, we run as we click away. We melt like an Easter peep under a blowtorch even as we speak bold words about “oppression,” “fascism,” and “God-given rights.” How can this please God?

What will we offer when we stand before Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Eternal Word—our thrice holy God, whose feet John describes as burning like bronze in a furnace, whose hair is as white as wool, from whose mouth proceeds a double-edged sword, and whose voice roars like thunderous ocean waves?[3]

Will we stand before this One and tell Him, “I had more fervor against Islam than for the Gospel?” Will we stand before this King and tell him that “I had more passion for my economic well-being than I did for living holy and blameless before a sinful generation? Will we stand before this One and proudly proclaim that we had more fire to oppose government takeover, fascism and socialism than to stand for the righteousness of God in our families, marriages and neighborhoods? Will we argue with Him then and there about our right to dabble in so-called debatable sins (but to which we have actually hardened our hearts to the Spirit’s promptings?)

Will these be our answers?

When defending himself and using his Roman citizenship, Paul seems to do so only so that the Gospel will be promoted. He allows himself to go further into the Roman correctional system, so that he could proclaim Christ to leaders of Rome. All of his actions while in the hands of the authorities points to his ultimate goal—how can I use this to broaden my audience for the Good News?[4]

In our heart of hearts, is our friction at the thought of our rights being infringed grounded in the notion that if we lose liberties, we will then lose greater Gospel opportunities?

Really?

Or is it based in something else?

When Islam encroaches, will we proclaim the Gospel to them as our first priority—as we try to remain free? Will we ultimately trust that the Sword of the Spirit is mightier than the scimitar or the crescent? When the government oppresses, will we act in godly ways, proclaiming the Gospel, while trying to remain free and stand for righteousness? What will be the motives that drive us: Our supremacy? Our economic freedom? Our desire to impose Christian ethics on unbelievers (as some sort of revenge)? Our so-called rights? Our…?

If the shackles are put on, will we sing hymns and proclaim the gospel? Will we offer love and peace when we are reviled? Will we seek political domination and enforcement of Christian ethics upon those who lose to us politically? Will we make common “Christian” cause with those whose god is a false god who kind of looks like God?

Is the picture of Christ under trial or the perseverance of the Church in Acts, in any small way a representation of the kind of Christianity promoted today? Is our citizenship in heaven, or do our actions and attitudes reveal that all we see ourselves as having is some measly, meager American citizenship, and that’s all we know—that’s all that comes first?

Are we a thin-shelled, hollow chocolate rabbits—melting under the pressure of our society, in such a way that we will not live or speak for the Gospel—but we will be mighty lions for those things that are so temporal, like wealth, freedom, and lack of oppression?

Which priority will please Christ[5]—the Good News, or the Good Life?


[1] There is no good biblical case which can be argued that America is some sort of replacement for Israel, the church or any other inordinately spiritually-blessed entity. America is a country which was founded with Christian ideals in many cases, but was also with pagan, secular and fallen human principles also. (Look at our memorials and government buildings.) Without arguing against American exceptionalism, there is a very real sense that from a scriptural standpoint, we are like any other Gentile nation. What should ultimately be exceptional about America, and any nation is that it should be populated with Christians who are making the Gospel and their heavenly citizenship their highest priority.

[2] (Romans 13:1;Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13, 18; Romans 13). There is biblical evidence that we can work to throw off shackles (Philemon), but there are also commands to be content and Gospel-focused wherever we are (Ephesians 6). I do not mean this to be the be all, end all statement about Christian slavehood and American liberty, so I will stop here.

[3] Revelation 1:14f. By the way, clearly Christ’s priority is the spiritual well-being of the churches. In 1:13, He is in the middle of the lampstands representing the seven churches of Revelation 1 – 3. As they face trial and hardship, His highest priority is not for them to break their bands of bondage, but that is His job (3:9). In fact, in all the examples of the churches (these are real churches, not church ages), Christ is the One acting to overcome their enemies—their job is to endure in the Gospel, in sound doctrine, in faithful practice of the Christian ethic.

[4] Acts 21 – 28

[5] Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4

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