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Jeanine and I were walking through a parking lot this week, and I pointed out an SUV that had several anti-Obama bumper stickers.  These were bumper stickers that clearly communicated animosity toward the President’s policies but beyond that also communicated a particular distaste for the President himself.  What was most shocking, however, was the purposely-placed, large-sized window decal which proudly displayed the name of the church where the owners of the vehicle obviously attended.

It is no surprise to me that in such a politically heated environment some people would have strong opinions about our government and its policies; however, when self-professing Christians get caught up in the hateful political language and act just like everyone else who is spewing vitriol what does that communicate about the gospel and about where our hopes lie?  It seems to me that too many evangelical Christians seem to think that the solution to our problems rests in getting the “wrong” people out of office and replacing them with the “right” people.

Well, this Wednesday I was reading through Justin Martyr’s First Apology, and I came across this most helpful quote in relation to the early Christians’ position toward a dictatorial, tyrannical government.  In fact, Justin addressed his apology to “the Emperor Titus Aelius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar, and to his son Verissimus the Philosopher, and to Lucius the Philosopher, the natural son of Caesar, and the adopted son of Pius, a lover of learning, and to the sacred Senate, with the whole People of the Romans.”

Justin was concerned that Christians were being persecuted simply because they bore the name Christian.  He appeals to the governing authorities to judge Christians rightly based on their character and conduct, not the labels that have been given to them.  In relation to whether or not Christians were a threat to Roman peace, Justin declares:

And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom; whereas we speak of that which is with God, as appears also from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, though they know that death is the punishment awarded to him who so confesses. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, that we might not be slain; and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since also death is a debt which must at all events be paid (First Apology, Chapter XI).

And more than all other men are we your helpers and allies in promoting peace, seeing that we hold this view, . . . (First Apology, Chapter XII).

We’ve come a long way since the second century.  Do we Christians act as if our hopes rest on this kingdom and its governments and its elected officials?

Precisely because our kingdom is not of this world, the Bible calls us sojourners and exiles (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11).  Precisely because our kingdom is not of this world, the Bible calls us ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Our hope does not rest in this world, its governments or its elected officials; our hope rests in Christ alone, and His kingdom is not of this world.

Let us be good earthly citizens, fulfilling our responsibilities in God-glorifying ways to be sure, but let us remember that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19).  When we remember this truth, then we will seek the things that are above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1-4), and we will be peacemakers here on earth (James 3:17-18) as our Lord’s ambassadors who bring a message of reconciliation.

Categories : Commentary, Politics

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