At the risk of stepping into a hornet’s nest (I’ve actually done that before and it’s not fun! But it did make for a very funny story!*) I have a few further thoughts on the message yesterday (9/12/2010) “Is the god of Mohammed the Father of Jesus?”
Thought #1: For too long some evangelical Christians have inseparably linked patriotism and politics with their Christian faith. Please don’t misunderstand: I know that we are citizens of this country and have, as citizens, civic obligations like being informed on the issues and voting. And I know that as Christians, our voting is informed by our faith and the values that come from that faith.
But for too long some Christians have wrapped their Bible in a U.S. flag, tying their faith and their politics together such that it warps their view of both their country and their own role. It is popular for some to say that the U.S.A. is a “Christian country” because some of the founders were Christians and forms of the Christian faith were prevalent in the early years of America. (A number of countries DO have a “state religion,” approved and supported by the tax dollars of the citizens, including Monaco and Costa Rica, Greece, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, England; more than two dozen countries which embrace Islam including Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.; and a number that recognize Buddhism including Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.)
But history reveals that others of the key founders of America were deists at best (think Washington, Franklin in his younger years, Jefferson…) who acknowledged that there is a “God” somewhere but that he is not engaged in this world in any way and that reason was more important than revelation. And while Christianity was the prevailing, predominant religion of the colonies, there were Jewish communities, and not a few Muslims (mostly slaves imported from Africa). In fact, the Constitution and Amendments of the Bill of Rights are deliberately non-committal about religious faith, referring to an undefined “God” (but never Jesus Christ) and allowing for the freedom of religion without allowing the government to promote one creed in particular.
For Christians to wave the flag in one hand and the Bible in the other often confuses the two, implying that there is only one way to vote to be truly “Christian” or truly “patriotic.” More importantly, it confuses the Christian on the question of citizenship and loyalty. Philippians 3:20 tells us clearly that “…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
Thought #2: We are blessed to have freedom to practice our faith in the U.S., a freedom that soldiers have fought for and died to protect. This freedom cuts two ways: it is freedom for Christians, and freedom for those of other faiths. One cannot complain of a mosque being built somewhere and expect full liberty to build a church anywhere.
In fact, Christianity does not need “freedom of religion” to flourish and thrive. Church history is full of examples, from the persecution by the Roman Emperors between 70AD and 300AD to the believing church in mainland China today. After 60+ years of atheistic communism with repression and outright persecution including beatings, imprisonment and death, the church there is strong and growing stronger and larger day by day. As of 2008 it is estimated that there are at least 65 million Christians in China! And that is just one example of how the church can survive and grow, even when there is no freedom of religion.
Ben Parker and Jeff Cambridge, along with a number of others, challenged us all at the Breaking of Bread meeting (9/2/2010) to live boldly for Jesus Christ in our culture from the text of 2 Timothy 1:12…
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
and 1 Peter 4: 12-16…
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
… that if we are not suffering for our faith, we are living too safe and being too absorbed/concerned with the greatest American value: “personal comfort.” As I have thought about that challenge, I’ve been wondering where I’m playing it safe and where I am protecting my comfort at the expense of authentic witness.
Maybe instead of relying on the protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we should step out in bold faith, shout out the uniqueness and preeminence of Jesus, and trust “that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
I wonder what that would look like?
Resting in Him,
* One Saturday morning, while weeding the border in the front yard, I was stung by a hornet whose nest I disturbed in the dirt. The little beast stung me on the upper lip, just beneath my right nostril. It stung and burned like crazy. By the time I finished the weeding and went in the house, my lip was swelling up. By the time I took a shower and got dressed it was getting bigger and thicker. Unfortunately, I had to speak at a funeral in just an hour. I put ice cubes in a baggie and held them on my lip but it just kept on gettin bigger and harder. By the time the funeral began, my upper lip looked more like a duck’s bill and was pretty firm, making it hard to talk right. I mumbled through the funeral service and sermon hoping it would go down. It didn’t, even at the graveside I still had a “duck lip” and sounded a bit like Daffy duck. It never really went back to normal until later that night. Painful for me. Very funny for eveyone else. Embarassing at a funeral and graveside for sure.