Which Government Do You Serve?

The political climate in America this week is boiling hot on the heals of Sunday night’s signing of the Obamacare proposal.  There is an apocalyptic like mood on the conservative right, with talk show hosts prognosticating on the eventual collapse of America as we know it.

Today, I walked to the gas station for a soda, and a perturbed man on the brink of desperation was waving a copy of the newspaper in the face of the clerk and yelling: “You see this?!  This is not just a new Healthcare plan; it is the beginning of a complete government takeover of this great country!  You just wait!  This is the beginning of the end of America.”

I’m not here to weigh in or take sides in this debate.  In fact, I intend to do quite the opposite.  I intend to remind Christ followers of where our primary citizenship lies, and where our hopes for the future does rest. I walked out of the gas station store, calm and collected, opened my Mello Yello and with the fresh spring breeze all around me said a silent prayer of thanksgiving:

“Thank you, Lord, that my citizenship is of another world.  Thank you, Lord, that the American government — whether conservative or liberal or far leftist — is not where I place my hope for my own future or the future of the world.  Help this man to discover a greater, more lasting Kingdom to place his hopes in.”

Jesus was not an American — obviously.  But nor was he a citizen of ancient Rome, supposedly the “bringers of world peace and prosperity” in the ancient world. When he was on trial for, among other things, treason against the political superpower of his day, he was asked plainly by Pilate about his political allegiance.  His answer was unequivocally clear: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

We must quickly point out that Jesus did NOT mean by this that his Kingdom was not for this world or present in this world, as if he were referring to an otherworldly Kingdom in the sky called Heaven where we’ll eventually go.  By saying his kingdom is “not of this world” he meant his Kingdom/government does not follow the same rules and patterns of other human governments we know.  (In this context he means first and foremost that it does not stand or fall by military might: “If it were [of this world] my servants would fight to prevent my arrest”(v. 36b)).

Jesus inaugurated a new government rooted in radically subversive Kingdom-principles and driven by Calvary-shaped public agenda.  Jesus didn’t align himself with any of the political parties of his day; but nor was his ministry apolitical.

Jesus announced a radically countercultural, seemingly foolish way of life and public service that tipped conventional political wisdom on its head.  He didn’t try to reform the government or overthrow it.  He started a quiet, non-violent, peaceable movement and invited people to turn from the ways of the populous and begin living their lives according to his Law of Love and agenda of self-sacrificing service to the least among us.  His followers were not to be religious zealots or freedom fighters trying to force people to convert.  They were not to be power-hungry, power-brokers wielding influence in the political spheres. They were not to be attempting to beat Caesar at Caesar’s own political games.  Nor would they to withdraw from society altogether and live in isolation.

No.  Instead, the Jesus movement would present a counter-kingdom, a radically new way of life that exposed the folly of the old ways. It would mind it’s own business, focus on the things Jesus focused on — loving the unlovely, serving the poor and forgotten, embracing those on the margins, loving one’s enemies, feeding the hungry, visiting prisoners, and, most importantly, sharing the good news of the gospel and inviting others to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness and new life in Christ.  Christians are called to be “a city on a hill”, shining the “light of the world” into the dark corners of society, being “salt and light”, and to “live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17).

One of my favorite conservative radio talk show hosts, whom I respect and enjoy listening to on many subjects, drives me crazy when he, a religious Jew, repeats the following slogan: “America is the last and only hope for the world.”  For a follower of Jesus, this is not a patriotic refrain nor a mere political opinion.  This is blasphemy of the highest degree.  For the Christian, there is only one hope for the world — and we’ll be observing and remembering the act of God in Jesus Christ that made that hope a reality this coming Holy Week.

I have my opinions about the current state of the American democracy and the political future of this nation.  Some of my convictions are held passionately. But this is a great week to remember where our citizenship truly lies.  This is a great week to be standing on the rock of Christ rather than any human political platform.  So, Christian, which kingdom do you really serve?

To read more about the perspective I hold on Christian involvement in the political arena click HERE.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand.”

14 Comments Add yours

  1. mike00000000001 says:

    I like what your saying. And it does give me pause. I have to think deeply and carefully about what God teaches about the commandments of men. Never have I been more confused about it till now. In any case, it is a sure thing that this earth is not our final place.

    1. Jeremy Berg says:

      Mike – I happen to believe this earth is our final place — a new earth completely redeemed and renewed at Christ’s return (cf. Rev 21:21-22). In the meantime, our prayer must continually be “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” And our efforts must be partnering with the Spirit in manifesting that future world already now in the present as we, the church, serve as a communal signpost pointing others to God’s coming Kingdom. Grace and peace!

  2. mike00000000001 says:

    If that were so, many physical laws would have to change for this world to become eternal. As it stands now our sun will eventually burn out and earth will eventually stop rotating and someday we will have no moon. If things were left to their natural course this is what would eventually happen. And without a sun and proper orbit our planet would eventually become a dead cratered planet with a bad atmosphere if any at all. Add to this the fact that the Bible litteraly says “and heaven and earth shall pass away”. No offense but it does seem that the Bible and science disagree with your assertion that this earth will be the kingdom. We are promised an eternity. In this world everything is decaying and passing away. That does not mean there will not be a revival. Revelation speaks of multitudes of believers. It is reasonable to assume that there might be a great revival just before the end. Pray for America. Please pray for America.

    1. Jeremy Berg says:

      I recommend “Surprised By Hope” by N.T. Wright on what the Bible teaches about the future of “the heavens and the earth.” As regards your doubts about the current geophysical state of things and the plausibility of a future renewed and restored earth (e.g. physical laws, etc.), it seems small beans for the Creator who spoke the current earth (and universe) into being to someday act powerfully to bring about a renewed state of things.

      I disagree that science and the Bible teach an “otherworldly” future. The present state of the heavens and the earth do indeed pass away, but this speaks more accurately to present corrupt “condition” of things. The great biblical hope, according to the best in current biblical scholarship, is for “times of refreshing” to come (Acts 3:19) or what Jesus referred to as “the renewal of all things” when “thy kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven” (‘heaven’ referring to God’s sphere of influence, not a cloudy place somewhere else), when “the new Jerusalem will come down to earth out of heaven” (Rev 21:1-3) which speaks apocalyptically of God’s sphere at last overlapping and interlocking with our sphere, heaven and earth becoming one when at last “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev 21).

      Again, a lot of speculation on the “how” of these things; but the days of the church being held captive to gnostic and Greek ideas about heaven as being “in the clouds” and the earth being second-rate, evil or inherently corrupt and therefore the Christian hope being an escape or rapture away from earth are at last over. This is a gross distortion of the Hebrew scriptures and Hebraic thought-world that holds God’s creation in utmost honor, and looks forward to God’s future renewal of all things where the faithful will live forever in new, resurrected physical bodies on God’s restored earth “wherein righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

      Thoughts?

  3. mike00000000001 says:

    Well, no one ever said that Christians will agree on everything. It is true that God could do whatever He wanted with this reality. But are miracles really just a manifestation of a higher reality with its own rules? Is the universe one small part of a superdimension, making these miracles possible? I’m sure that we could debate this endlessly. Regardless of how they are done, I do believe God does miracles. One thing is certain, more people need to try and do their best to to honor God and care for their neighbors. Whether its this world or the next, I hope for God’s return. Christian circles are full of debates you know . . . calvinism vs free will . . . kingdom now theology vs 2nd world . . . one baptism vs many. But what unites all these circles ought to be the two greatest commandments. . . love your neighbore as yourself and worship God with all your heart.

  4. mike00000000001 says:

    As for the Bible I choose to interpret it litterally unless it says otherwise. Its all a matter of the authors intended meaning. I certainly could be wrong. I will say one thing though. If God restores “this” earth it will not be because we deserved it.

    1. Jeremy Berg says:

      If Easter demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that our God does NOT give us what we deserve. His grace is amazing!

  5. mike00000000001 says:

    In fact God has to be in or literally be some super dimension. How could so many things be possible for Him? It baffles the mind endlessly. Perhaps nothing is impossible for Him except for going against His word or nature.

  6. mike00000000001 says:

    Im just one little speck in His big creation. Its scary.

    1. Jeremy Berg says:

      Not scary. Though we are like little specks in comparison to his majesty, God takes great delight in these specks and has crowned us with glory and honor, and given us a significant task in his world. Psalm 8:

      3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
      the moon and the stars you set in place—
      4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
      human beings that you should care for them?[c]
      5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God[d]
      and crowned them[e] with glory and honor.
      6 You gave them charge of everything you made,
      putting all things under their authority—
      7 the flocks and the herds
      and all the wild animals,
      8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
      and everything that swims the ocean currents.

      9 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

      This task, which we as human beings failed miserably at, Christ has done for us as the second and last Adam. Easter celebrates the birth and beginning of God’s new creation as we live now in light of His future world that will arrive in full at Christ’s return.
      Happy Easter, Mike!

  7. mike00000000001 says:

    Happy easter to you too :) There may yet be a way to persuade the culture back towards God. It seems that the “enlightenment” is largely responsible for much of the curruption we see today. It goes back to about 200 years ago I think. That is to say. much modern philosophy was influenced by the enlightenment. But here is the key. Man was encouraged to turn to his heart. Therin was the trap. We must do everything we can to try and reverse this trend. Mans heart leads to extreme liberalism. That is its final resting place. It will take you to the brinks of hedonism, anarchy, and communism if you chose to fully follow it. Man was tricked. Like the apple, there the human heart sat in the garden, and we were encouraged to follow after it. Only instead of a snake, this time it was men like Emerson and Thomas Aquinas that told us we would be, not gods but, better people. Its a good idea to understand your heart, but during the enlightenment man chose to make it his only guide to morality. Be he trusts his heart to much these days. This is the illusion we must try and break if we can.

  8. mike00000000001 says:

    But you know poor parenting has greatly contributed. People’s sense of right and wrong has been seared with a hot iron largely because of poor parenting.

  9. mike00000000001 says:

    I am convinced that when we fell as a human race we lost a bit of our own sanity, and we have been reaping the fruits of that ever since.

  10. Jeremy Berg says:

    Reblogged this on DAILY ILLUMINATION | Jeremy Berg and commented:

    I’m reposting this timely piece I wrote 6 or so years ago. Food for thought during this crazy election season.

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