5-25-14 “Christian Patriotism”
1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7? ?A Mirror of God?s Governing- Or Christian Patriotism?
On this patriotic holiday- this Memorial Day weekend, the question should be raised, what should be the roll of the Church and also the Christian in the state/politics.? This is very practical- and you hear different ideas on this topic. ???? First I hope we can agree that we are obligated to love God and love our neighbor and to listen to what our Lord says in scripture.?? If we cannot agree on that foundation, whatever else I say will make no sense. ??Part of loving God and neighbor is caring about what happens in our communities. ??? Second, I hope we understand that unlike some traditions that only focus on the next life, Calvinism believes our call is not simply to be saved, but to glorify and honor God.? The Presbyterian piety embraces all the day by day concerns of life.? We are not called to believe in God but then leave him out of our concerns for family, for neighbors, for education, business, and politics. ??? I hear a lot of music these days that expresses that we can treat people like animals to be used and abused yet then pray to God when we get in trouble.? It seems to be the Thug mentality- and then if you disagree or protest it you are called a ?hater.?? But God calls us to not be selfish or to use people up for our own selfish gain.? That spills into politics as well. ??? Faith would remind us- and remind each politician- that a political office should be filled with integrity so that it is not all about being elected or re-elected, or the money.? Rather, our governing should reflect the way God governs us.? He cares for us with an everlasting love.? He punishes evil with the very nature of things- and he rewards being good.? When the Bible says, for example to ?Honor your Father and Mother that your days may be long in this life?? Calvin interpreted that as also meaning to honor those in authority over us including teachers in school, pastors in church, and those in political authority. ???? No political system or political party is perfect on this side of heaven.? We all stand in need of grace and forgiveness.? This is why we need to be very cautious of saying this particular vote is God?s will.? Niebuhr once said, ?Our causes are never as righteous and our participation in them never as devoid of self-interest as we think they are.? However, the Church is called to be a voice for justice, truth, and hope.?? The Church should speak up for those who are oppressed and cannot defend themselves- especially the children, the elderly, the mentally or physically challenged.? The Church is called to encourage our culture to make this world a better place- not simply as an end in itself- but so that it would reflect or mirror heaven.? We not only pray, ?Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven?- but hopefully we do something about it- making this world a safer, better, more loving place.? But the balance is the Church is not a political animal to be lobbied and courted.? ????? ???? Let me give you a concrete example.? I am concerned that every year since I have been here- ten years someone has died on highway 76 between Ballentine and Chapin on Highway 76.? The road has been on the top 20 list to be fourlaned since the 1970s but nothing has been done.? My concern is not about the slowing of traffic- even though we have more people in our zipcode area than Saluda and Newberry Counties combined, or even the possibility of slow evacuation if there was a problem with the nuclear plant, but that every year someone dies on this six mile stretch and no one seems to be doing anything about it or caring.?? We have offered to have at our expense a turn lane put in by the church- but that was ruled out by the engineers of DOT.? So it is a political decision.?? I will never tell you to vote for this person or that person or this party or that party.? No person or party that exists today has biblical approval.? But I will tell you to love your neighbor and care for those who could be put in harm?s way. ????? The third thing that every Christian needs to be reminded of is what Jesus said to Pilate when he was asked if he was a king: ?My kingdom is not of this world.?? Knox was very conscious of the abuses when the Roman pope was also a Roman noble and owned about a third of Italy.? In such cases wealth management was tempted to overrule church management. There were instances when the Pope would actually lead soldiers into war.? Americans were very conscious of this too.? In South Carolina in the 1760s the official church of the state was the Church of England or Episcopalian church.? If you were a Presbyterian or Baptists your marriage or baptism did not count unless you were married or baptized as an Episcopalian.? State taxes built churches like St. Michael?s and St. Philip?s in Charleston, but then Presbyterians and Baptists- who outnumbered Episcopalians in the state- had to pay additional monies on their own to build their churches.? When the Revolutionary War broke out Presbyterians and Baptists were sympathetic to the patriot cause but many refused to fight until we were guaranteed freedom of religion- that there would be no state run denomination.? Today history has been twisted by some as if the founders were trying to give us freedom from religion- which was nowhere near the case.? Most legislators saw God?s blessing as important- the Sabbath Day was a law up until our generation.? The common law was based primarily on the common reading of scripture and influenced by Roman laws that worked.? The church was seen as the moral conscience of the state.? This was probably true from 1765 to 1965.? There is always a prophetic element to the church.? Prophecy is not just prediction of the future but as Amos and Micah shows- it is also speaking truth about present injustices.? So the church reminds us to care for the hungry, the oppressed.? ?For every church, and every Christian- we pray and work for the kingdom on earth to reflect the kingdom of heaven, but we also know that our real home- our real kingdom is not of this world.? It is a delicate balance but one that must be maintained.? Christians are called to be the very best citizens- rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.? We are to pay taxes, vote, work for what we believe is right- but recognize the limits of what we do in this life.? In some way we work for steps in the right direction here but we recognize our true direction- our true destination is not the earth but heaven itself.
On this Memorial Day Weekend, some of the greatest stories told are stories of those who clearly sacrificed for others.? The TV series ?Turn? about a colonial who becomes a spy for America dances all around the ?real person spy of Nathan Hale.? Hale was caught in 1776 and was convicted and was hanged on 9/22/1776.? Hale grew up a Puritan and was taught by a minister and remained very religious despite going off to a very secular and Enlightenment oriented Yale.? Historian Mary Ortner said he was very conscious of putting the greater ?public good? ahead of his own welfare.? Hale was just 21 years old, but he owned no property, was a school teacher before he became a captain, had no family, but he will always be remembered for his last words recorded by two separate eye witnesses: ?My only regret is that I only have one life to lose for my country.?? We can learn from Hale?s philosophy lived out- the public good and God?s glory is greater than our own.