Packaged or Planted?
It has always been part of the church’s office of guardianship that she calls sin by its name and that she warns all men against it. The Scripture is clear that “righteousness exalteth a nation,” both in time and eternity, “but sin is perdition for the people” (Prov. 14:34). If the church did not do this—if she remained silent on matters about which she should speak out with a clear voice—she would incur part of the guilt for the blood of the wicked (Ezek. 3:17).
As I see it, the church has a task that is both wider and deeper than we often think. She has the task of summoning the world to submit to the lordship and dominion of Jesus Christ. She does not merely call men and women to be saved; she calls upon persons who exercise government to believe in Christ for the sake of their own salvation and for the nation’s welfare. She knows that it is only through obedience to Jesus Christ that the legitimate role of civil government is properly executed. The church can never abandon this role, and she must make her claims heard publicly so long as government itself maintains its claim to listen to the church.
The intention of the preacher in all this is not to improve the world, but to summon it to belief in Jesus Christ and to bear witness to the reconciliation that has been accomplished through Him. It is part and parcel of the preaching office that it shall devote earnest attention to the proclamation of the reign of Christ as King, and that it shall address government directly in order to draw its attention to shortcomings and errors that must otherwise imperil its legitimate function.
Is there a political responsibility on the part of the individual Christian? Certainly each believer in Christ cannot be made responsible for the action of government, and he therefore must not make himself responsible for it. That would be an inappropriate burden for any individual to bear. But because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ he is responsible for his own calling and for the sphere of his own personal life, however large or small it may be. Moreover, in a Republic, there is a responsibility to every individual for preserving the purity of his mission and participation in the polis. In this way, every Christian serves government with his responsibility. No one, not even government itself, can deprive him of this political duty or forbid him to discharge it, for it is an integral part of his life in sanctification and arises from obedience to the Lord of both the church and government.
The individual Christian is neither obligated nor able to examine the rightfulness of the demand of government in each particular case. But if government violates or exceeds its lawful commission at any point, for example by forgetting that it is instituted by God for the sake of Christ and to secure outward justice by the power of the sword, then at this point the church must reject this encroachment of the order of the state precisely because it knows the true limitations of the latter. The state that contributes to the chaotic godlessness of the world negates itself.
The translation of the kingdom of God into political terms demands spiritual and prophetic knowledge on every side. It is for this reason that I am commending to my readers the candidacy of Michael Peroutka for president of the United States on the Constitution Party ticket. The Preamble to the Constitution Party platform reads as follows:
We, the members of the Constitution Party, gratefully acknowledge the blessing of the Lord God as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of this Nation. We solemnly declare that the foundation of our political position and moving principle of our political activity is our full submission and unshakable faith in our Savior and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Divine Providence as we work to restore and preserve this Nation as a government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
The U.S. Constitution established a Republic under God, rather than a democracy.
Our Republic is a nation governed by a Constitution that is rooted in Biblical law, administered by representatives who are Constitutionally elected by the citizens.
In a Republic governed by Constitutional law rooted in Biblical law, all Life, Liberty and Property are protected because law rules.
From my understanding of Scripture, I believe that the general view of American government as described above is the correct one. However, it is my observation from long experience that even when a man is a Christian, and is a courageous one on the basis of Scripture, he still is liable to take the way of ease. A lot of Christians on Sunday morning remind me of the garden seeds one finds in stores this time of the year, which make quite a display in their pretty packages. We look pretty enough row upon row in our sanctuaries, but a lot of packaged orthodoxy needs to be planted in the soil. We enjoy each other—and, of course, koinonia has its place—or we sit around debating theological puzzles, when we ought to say:
A Spirit-filled Christian is never a silent Christian. The old country doctor used to begin his examination by saying “Let me see your tongue.” This election year, will our faith affect our voice? Will we be content to merely shadow box and beat the air? Whatever others may do, there will be no substitute for personally grappling with the powers of darkness. Today, as ever, we must be more concerned with pleasing our Commander-in-Chief than with the affairs of this life.
It might be well to remember that the only way to outlive ourselves is to become planted Christians, not packaged Christians.
March 15, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released this year.