A Very Brief Open letter to Christians in the United States

The following is not an exhaustive work that I have labored over for hours. It's merely some thoughts I begun to have after seeing the mid-term elections of 2006 tear people apart. I don't claim to be a scholar or a writer, so please take it for what it's worth.

My only disclaimer is that I do love the church and my brothers and sisters in it very much. They are my family, especially the church body I belong to locally.

To those of us who call themselves Christians:

We as followers of Christ have not been called to clean up the world and make it a safer place to live. We've been called to live a life of holiness, self-sacrifice and in love, speak the truth about Jesus Christ and his saving grace. We have not been called to change political systems, amend constitutions or set-up rulers who will favor our beliefs. Our home is an eternal, heavenly kingdom, not one built by human hands. The Bible clearly tells us that during our short time here we are strangers on this earth:

"...All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.
Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."
(Hebrews 11:13-16)

As strangers here, we shouldn't be so caught up in trying to perfect some earthly utopia for ourselves, but rather prepare ourselves for our coming eternal home. As I look around at the religious climate in the States right now, I don't see the Christian church living like strangers on this earth. I see us living like people who think this world is our kingdom and our Christian values should be the law of the land.

Much of the church thinks if they can only get non-Christians to act like Christians then they will have done the country a great service. I agree that if we as a country based all of our laws on God's we would have a safer, more pleasant nation. But to accomplish that result we have to fight the infamous "culture war." The term culture war is one that implies a war between two sets of people with opposing ideas. The problem with the culture war is that Ephesians 6:12 says that our enemies are not people but spiritual powers. The culture war mistakenly makes people our enemies to the devastation of the gospel message.

God has called the church to a mission: feed the poor, heal and visit the sick, deliver people from bondage, etc. The mission of the American church seems to be that of casting stones, making mountains out of political mole hills and trying to clothe itself and non-believers alike in an "appearance of righteousness." And all of this doesn't even seem to be done for the sake of the lost but for the comfort of the believers themselves.

The church looks around and sees immorality in the form of abortion, gay marriage, etc. To the church, these issues are the enemies of a good, stable society and their chance to live the "american dream." Let me say up front, I oppose abortion, I believe homosexuality is a sin and I consider myself to have pretty "conservative" values.

But at the same time I have been wondering lately if we as Christians should really spend our time trying to change the world by installing politicians into office who agree with us on all of our "christian" issues. The American dream and an earthly utopia are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, but self-sacrifice, communal living and many other "un-American" ideas are.

It's been quoted many times but it's also one of the most ignored verses in the Bible:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land"
(2 Chronicles 7:14)

It's pretty clear that if we as Christians do want a "nation under God" then we need to be changing ourselves more than we need to be worrying about the sins of others. So, lets vote on issues that are important to us, we have that right as Americans. But as Christians we shouldn't get caught up in trying to change the rules of government, or worse people's outward behavior when that is not what we were instructed to do by Jesus.

The Pharisees were all concerned about behaviors and what people "did." As I said earlier, we cannot expect people who are not christians to act like christians. And even if you could make them stop doing certain outwardly behaviors, what good would that do? It would do no good except to make the world a little more comfortable for you.

The world needs the real Jesus, not a religious game of "clean the outside of the cup." Safety & comfort are not the goals of the Christian life. Our life should be dangerous. I remember reading in a worship magazine an interview with Mark Foreman, father of Jon & Tim Foreman of Switchfoot. He basically said: we spend our whole lives trying to raise our kids to be safe and protected, when our job is to put them in harms way.

As adult Christians we need to be living in harms way, changing the world through the example of Jesus not the example of politicians. If gay marriage is legalized, it may mean a gay couple may move in next to you and you may have to actually get to know them and love on them.

So as we await the eternal kingdom prepared for us, how should we live in this temporal world in which we have been born into? For those of us who were fortunate enough to be born in the United States, we should be living very differently than we seem to be.

We should be less concerned with trying to change the moral compass of our nation through politics and protests and more concerned with changing ourselves into people of compassion, love and virtue. The book of Acts mentions how the early church was held in high esteem by the outside world for their acts of service. May that be said of us in these times.

David