Note: This post is a bit of a departure from the sort of devotional fare I usually serve up on this site. It’s part of a new series called Simple Reminders, in which my goal is to remind us all that the Bible speaks very clearly into the cultural debates of our day.
This world is a strange place, and if we aren’t aligned with the One who is always true north, we can quickly find ourselves upside-down.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)
The good life. We all want it, don’t we? Every last one of us longs to live in peace, walk in good health, and know the joys of love, laughter, and a delicious meal shared with friends. But of course, this world doesn’t simply hand out that sort of life to all who apply. We must cultivate the good life, tending to the seeds we’ve planted and rooting out the weeds that crop up. Our personal choices matter, of course, but so does the nature of the society in which we live.
What sort of world do I want to live in? What values do I want to see fostered in my community? These are the questions we ask ourselves as we think about our government and our political system. The brilliance of a representative democracy—of a vibrant republic—is that ordinary people get to answer these questions with their votes. We get a say in who governs for a season and in what sorts of laws are passed.
Christians, of course, are called to surrender their votes to Jesus. He is King—of our affections, our time, our money, and yes, our political choices. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God told the exiles in Babylon, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). He calls us to do the same, we who are citizens of His kingdom and therefore “foreigners and exiles” wherever we live here on earth (1 Peter 2:11).
Using politics as a tool—as a means to an end—we have the responsibility to choose the path of greatest human flourishing. Contrary to what you may have been told, that doesn’t mean casting a ballot for the most government handouts. Instead, we are to seek blind justice and true peace. We are to seek economic freedom and polices that foster equal opportunities. It’s one of the ways we can love the poor and the bedraggled, the widow and the orphan.
As with everything we face in life, we followers of Jesus have not been left to stumble in the darkness alone. God has given us His Word, always reliable and always true, no matter where the shifting sands of culture move beneath our feet. Down through the centuries, well-meaning Christians have had sincere disagreements over exactly how certain biblical principles should be applied in society. But for the most part, these were healthy and robust debates that spurred believers back into the pages of Scripture to continue honing the way they live out their faith in the public square. These days, however, the debate has shifted. Anyone who brings their Bible with them into the voting booth is now called a Christian Nationalist. The term imagines a group of people who would seek to overturn the government and impose some sort of rigid theocracy over the masses. Think: A Handmaid’s Tale come to life.
Of course, this is nonsense. There is no movement among conservative Christians in the United States seeking to install a theocracy. Christians, like everyone else, are voting their values. The trouble is, as our culture sinks deeper into darkness, those Christian values are more and more out of place. It is sometimes said that believers—especially those of the so-called Christian Nationalist variety—ought to shut up and sit out the culture war. Romans 13:1 is often used as a stick to silence them: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” In other words, believers shouldn’t put up a fuss opposing a wicked culture and ought to receive whatever comes as God’s will. After all, when Paul’s letter to the Romans was written, Nero ruled the Roman world, and he was about as evil as they come.
There is, however, a ridiculously huge, thundering difference between being a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century and being a citizen of the United States in the twenty-first. Instead of a king, we have the Constitution. Our founding document doesn’t give us our rights; rather, it recognizes that God has already done so. Ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Collectively, we are Caesar. Voting, speaking out, and taking political action are not attempts to usurp the government’s authority; they’re our exercise of it.
Christians should be “nationalists,” in that every believer ought to be concerned about their country and do everything in their power to make theirs a place where God’s will is done “as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As “Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20), we must vote for and promote the platform that best represents the values of His kingdom.
3 thoughts on “Simple Reminder Series: The Life and Death of Christian Nationalism”
Amen! Thank you!
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Excellent John! Perhaps the political realm is calling you. You have good things to say. Our youth needs to hear this. I am sending it to Tim and Josh. Love you.
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No politics here!