Your Kingdom Come
October 19, 2016
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
I’ll never forget the first time I stood in the Rotunda of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., and realized the extent of similarities between the pagan Roman Empire and the United States of America. Laws were being argued and passed in the House and Senate below me and above me was Constantino Brumidi’s gorgeous fresco The Apotheosis of Washington, finished in 1865, after the Civil War ended. The fresco depicts President George Washington raised to the heavens and declared a god by the goddesses Victory and Liberty. Surrounding him are scenes with six other Roman gods: Bellona (war), Minerva (science), Neptune (marine), Mercury (commerce), Vulcan (mechanics), and Ceres (agriculture). I remember coming to the conclusion that here are the altars to the gods of America’s true religion. After all, how can a nation modelled after the Roman Empire ever be truly Christ-like? The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison thought the U.S. Constitution was the result of a terrible compromise between the rights of some men and the necessity of enslavement for others. Calling the Constitution a “covenant with death” and “an agreement with Hell,” he refused to participate in American electoral politics because to do so meant supporting “the pro-slavery, war-sanctioning Constitution of the United States.” The Civil War and the 13th Amendment answered Garrison’s complaint, but his accusations keep coming to my mind whenever I look at the news headlines and see accounts of racism, oppression, and terror sanctioned by the government. Phrases like “Endowed by our Creator,” “One nation under God,” “God bless America,” “In God We Trust,” may have duped many to believe the lie of Christian nationalism and comfortably serve the religion of political expediency over allegiance to Christ’s Kingdom. It is true that Christ’s Church has been blessed in the U.S. with an extended time of gospel growth that has even gone beyond our borders through missionaries to the rest of the world. Many disciples of Christ have even served faithfully as civil servants and worked for the benefit of those within the church and without the church. I hope many continue to do so. But this is much like the church in the Roman Empire was given religious freedom under the Christian Emperor Constantine after he issued the Edict of Milan. Persecution was stopped, churches were built, missionaries were sent out to spread the gospel and church leaders were often elevated to positions of political power. If we idolize the past history of religious freedom in our so-called Christian America, we may be shocked by and unprepared to then face religious persecution that Jesus assured his true disciples would face. Instead of praying for courage to fight well in the spiritual battles we will be faced with, we may instead begin battles in the courts of the land and hope elected leaders and Supreme Court justices will pass laws that protect our rights to be lazy Christians who don’t really love God or their neighbors because it’s too much work. Praying for our government to honor God is a good thing, but depending on our government to honor God is naïve. While Emperor Constantine allowed for religious toleration the later Emperor Theodosius saw the powerful advantage of uniting the Roman Republic through the Christian religion, and outlawed any tolerance for competing religions. This militarized the church and increased debilitating syncretism simultaneously. Theodosius worshipped at the altars of victory, war, and money and he convinced many true Christians to join him. If Christians lose sight of their citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom and don’t live like sojourners in a pagan land we may fall into similar idolatry. Remember when Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor if he bowed in worship? Jesus responded: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Jesus’ resounding answer establishes the pattern His disciples should follow in regards to the temptation of earthly power and riches. I’ve always been surprised that Jesus didn’t question Satan’s authority to offer him the kingdoms of the world. The implication is they are under his purview. When theologian Abraham Kuyper famously said “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” he was not negating Satan’s temporary earthly reign as much as he was pointing out the results of the final battle of Christ’s Kingdom. Remembering that earthly kingdoms are temporarily under Satan’s dominion, who is subordinate to the sovereign Christ, should provide great relief for those suffering from Election Anxiety Disorder. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities of this dark world, but we’re on the winning side! There is indeed Victory in Jesus! The American Christian, instead of bemoaning the loss of some nonexistent Christian government or holding out hope that if the right person gets into the Oval Office he or she will get the country back on the right course, should instead ask themselves am I worshipping the Lord my God and faithfully serving only Him even as a citizen of this country? We should lament for our nation because we know judgement is coming, but let us not worship at the idolatrous altars of America’s gods as we seek to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” Instead, let us pray. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven… For Yours is the power and the glory forever and ever Amen.”
Trisha Williams teaches history, literature and theology at Veritas Press Scholars Academy. She’s a member of College Church and serves on the Culture Impact Committee. When not teaching you can find her hanging out with her thirty-eight nieces and nephews and enjoying a good cup of coffee. ]]>
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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