Sunday, November 02, 2008

Be of Good Cheer

I'm not preaching anywhere this morning; in a few minutes I'll break off and attend worship at a church in the area.

But I wish I were in the pulpit this morning, for, God leading, I'd give a rousing sermon on the Two Kingdoms.

No, that's not something out of The Lord of the Rings. It's the biblical teaching that we as Christians are citizens simultaneously of some kingdom of this world (in my case, the representative republic of the United States of America) and of the kingdom of God.

Trouble is, a lot of my American fellow-Christians tend to confuse the two. They believe that the coming of the kingdom of God depends on their reforming and remaking this their earthly nation to conform to their vision of God's righteousness. That the kingdom of God actually is America made perfect and holy after the model of Scripture.

Ergo, there are Christian partisans on both sides of the American political divide who believe that the inauguration of the kingdom of God depends on their particular candidate being elected this coming Tuesday. And upon the other party's slate being soundly and roundly defeated. Somebody's bound to be disappointed, and if you feel your God and your faith, as well as your political party, have been dealt a crippling blow, you're going to be devastated indeed.

But this identification between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is not biblical. Yes, at the end of this age the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15), but not by any party politics or social activism or theocratic initiatives or any other piddling human promotions of our own. This will happen by God's own effort through His Son Jesus Christ, on the day when Christ puts all enemies, especially death, under His feet and delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father of us all (1 Corinthians 15:24-25).

Meanwhile, we Christians live and operate with dual citizenship. We pledge allegiance to our earthly nation, whatever it may be, and to its rulers insofar as they are not usurping the rights and prerogatives of God. For we know that all authority is delegated to human rulers by God to promote good and suppress evil. And that includes those human rulers whose policies we don't happen to agree with, who might not even believe in or acknowledge Him. And we owe fealty to Jesus Christ as our eternal king, who has made us fellow-citizens with all the saints by the new covenant, the new constitution, if you will, sealed by the blood of His cross. God sheds His grace on both kingdoms, but with the former it is common or providential grace, given alike to the just and the unjust, to those who worship Him and those who do not; with the latter it is saving grace, which is reserved for those whom He has called to eternal life in Christ. God ultimately is sovereign over both , but only the kingdom of God has to do with matters of salvation, and only the kingdom of God will last forever.

Yes, God wants us Christians to do good in and through and for our earthly nations. He wants us to be responsible citizens of America or wherever He has happened to place us in this world. But being a good American is not the same as being a good Christian. And if God forbid! America should someday be no more, the kingdom of God and our citizenship in it will stand.

I've picked my party. I will be voting for those whom I believe will do my country the best good in the foreseeable future. God may well work things out the other way, for our blessing or our judgement. However it comes out, it helps me to remember the last two lines of Martin Luther's great Reformation hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:

God's truth abideth still:
His kingdom is forever.


Sandy said...

Well said!

Mile High Pixie said...

Well said indeed! I hope that both sides can remember and REALLY INTERNALIZE that the time for bickering is behind us now. We MUST find what unites us, the common ground on which we can all stand and build anew. I think that is what Jesus would have us do for each other, not "Love thy neighbor unless she's a Hannah Montana fan."

St. Blogwen said...

MHP--Well, is it still okay for me to think that Miley Ray Cyrus is highly overrated?