(When I Migrated from my previous blog, many of my articles were not exported, this is a reprint for those of you faithful old-timers, I am reprinting some of my previous VivaVoce posts)
One of the most dramatic differences brought about by Christ is the distinction between spiritual power and political power. Up until Christ there is no example of a religious institution where the religious powers and political powers were unattached. The charges of heresy and sedition were one and the same.
This still remains an issue for us today as we see the Muslim world become more and more a part of our discussion in everyday life. It also is beginning to raise its head in the discussions that surround our social and political context. As the church sees more and more issues raised in the political arena regarding moral issues (the ongoing abortion discussion and the recently heated gay marriage issues), many are calling the church to engage the body politic with its power with regards to these issues. Many would love to have America be a true Christian nation. I am not one of those people.
Christianity is unique in that it delineated between the power of the religious and the power of the political. All previous expressions of religion were inextricably linked with the governing power. The genius of Christianity (it still remains the genius of Christianity) is that Christ distinguished the nature of his kingdom as distinct from political power.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”
“My kingdom is not of this world…it is not of this realm.”
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The New Testament sees a clear distinction between the church and the government. They are not the same, and the church is not to become a political entity. The sword is not a tool for the church. And it is here that we are again being tempted in the USA. We would like to see the church influence and speak out much more in the political arena. Many are calling for pastors to “man-up” and address social issues and movements from their pulpits. This is a mistake.
I have an acquaintance who believes that Christianity is in a battle with Islam, and this battle is being lost by Christianity as Islam has a higher birth rate, that is, they are having more children than Christians. Therefore he is calling for Christians to procreate more. His family (not all natural offspring) has grown to 15 children. He is taking the Great Commission seriously, albeit mistakenly.
The church is to be an influence, a strong influence. The church must be vocal. We speak the truth. But our power is not in the sword or in the political arena. It is in engaging and transforming the hearts and minds of men and women. When we avoid being affiliated with a political party or an earthly kingdom, our message is free to permeate all parties and all kingdoms. Hence the genius. This is in fact the result of unsullied Christianity. So in light of this Christianity thrives in any and all contexts around the globe. There are no barriers to its influence and power. All other religions are ethnically or politically bound. Outside of those bounds they do not thrive or spread.
Our tools are not the tools of government: the sword. They are not the tools of warfare against people. Our tools are: truth; righteousness, the gospel; faith; the message of salvation; prayer.
The church needs to resist a resurrection of Constantinian Christianity, which is no better than Marxist-Leninist Communism, a religion bound up by the force of government.