“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” Proverbs 16:34
America has been the greatest nation in the age of grace. We share our Christian values with our mother England, but she has fallen from her graceful place generations ago and her favorite son may not be far behind. As we approach our “Independence Day” celebrations, I doubt that many in our great land will think of the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Almost all holidays, religious or national, have become mere opportunities to play and party. We don’t take time to reflect on what brought us this freedom or how we came to be so blessed.
The true believer in Jesus Christ lives in a nationalistic conundrum. Can we rejoice in present-day America with its rejection of God and its blatant sins? Or can we be thankful for what we have had in the past even though we are living off the spiritual capital of our forefathers? Or can we be positive about our future, hoping that there will be some reprieve or revival or relief? Or can we be assured that these are the last days and that Jesus Christ Himself will rescue His Church before the dark and terrible days of tribulation to come? John’s tribulation riddle was, “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10).
I have been in several countries of the world and have mostly enjoyed every place I’ve gone. Of course, this is largely because I’ve gone there to fellowship with believers and share the things of God with like-minded brothers and sisters. I am always reminded that most believers in this world do not enjoy the privileges and blessings that we have in America. In many ways, non-American believers deserve more of God’s grace than we do, and most pay a much dearer price for their faith than we. Do we not bear a much greater responsibility for the stewardship of God’s blessings, and deserve greater judgment if we squander them?
Anthony Daniels, speaking at Hillsdale College last month said of his native England,
“Certainly the notions of dependence and independence have changed. I remember a population that was terrified of falling into dependence on the state, because such dependence, apart from being unpleasant in itself, signified personal failure and humiliation. But there has been an astonishing gestalt switch in my lifetime. Independence has now come to mean independence of the people to whom one is related and dependence on the state.”1
Likewise in America, rather than dependence upon our Creator for the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of (true) happiness, we have turned to our own ways and that usually means making government our god who will always supply our need. In fact, the “liberation” theology of preachers such as Jeremiah Wright and others is actually a “dependence” theology making citizens dependents of the state which is, in this interpretation, the only god there is.
What is a Christian to do? As I have thought on these things as a patriotic American Christian, I believe there are Biblical truths that we must honor and follow regardless of what happens in our country. At the same time, we must ask that “for a little space grace might be shown from the Lord our God . . . to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage” (Ezra 9:8).
Principles of a Christian Nation
God instituted human government after the flood of Noah. From that time to this it has been God’s will that men collectively govern themselves for good while punishing the evil. Romans 13 makes it clear that such power is seen as the minister of God for good. Here are some things that we must be aware of in America.
First, Satan hates Israel and America is Israel’s only friend in the world. Any nation should fear to read that God has said He would bless them that bless Israel and curse him that curses Israel (Gen. 12:3). Satan knows what the future has in store and still believes that he must destroy Israel if his plan to control the world can succeed. To do this he must first destroy the biggest obstacle to that objective, and that is the United States. Anyone who knows Biblical prophecy knows how the scenario works out. In history, Germany, the land of Reformation, could not stand when it became anti-semitic. Russia fell when it persecuted its Jewish citizens. For the first time in our nation’s history we have a cold relationship to Israel and in the grand scheme of things, that is a precarious place to be.
Second, America is founded on God’s providence. Yes, every nation is to some extent, but in God’s providential working America has been especially blessed. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psa. 33:12). This verse speaks specifically of Israel, but the next verse reads, “The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth” (vss. 13-14). To whom much is given much is required, and God has certainly given America much of which we are His stewards. To this point we have used our wealth to bless other nations and promote Biblical faith. That’s why we have been “blessed.”
Third, America was founded upon a Protestant ethic.2 It is only in a euphemistic sense that we say “Judeo-Christian” ethic. Our forefathers fled the Church of England in the way that England and all of Europe fled Roman Catholicism even though our tent is large and excludes no “Christian” interpretation. Henry Morris wrote,
“It is significant that all [of the signers of the Declaration] were at least nominal believers in the God of the Bible and in His supernatural creation of all things in the beginning, and in Jesus Christ as the chief Founder of our nation’s religion. None were atheists or Muslims or Buddhists or from any other non-Christian religion, and the same was true of the body of distinguished men who several years later formulation our national Constitution. It is understandable why God has signally blessed our nation. Indeed, ‘happy are the people whose God is the LORD.’”3
Fourth, there have always been just wars and America has always been on the right side. When immigrants to this land were truly seeking freedom to worship the true God according to their conscience and the Word of God, we fought for the dissolution of our ties with a tyrannical England. When slavery had engulfed us, we sacrificed a half-million citizens to right that wrong. When Germany would have destroyed the free countries of Europe we came to their rescue in WWI. When Hitler would have conquered the world we led the bloody charge clear to Berlin in WWII. In all the messy wars since then we were the protectors and the liberators. Gog and Magog is on the horizon, but America’s future moral compass will only be measured by her Biblical faith.
Fifth, America is not in Biblical prophecy, except, of course, in the most general sense as all nations of the earth that will exist at that time. What that means is that she may or may not be around when the Tribulation begins, depending on how far away that inevitable event is. Our most frequent prayer ought to be that America will still be promoting the preaching of the gospel until Jesus comes.
Sixth, Democracy is the best form of government for the age of grace. God dictated Israel’s law, and Jesus will rule the kingdom of God with a rod of iron, but in this interim the American experiment has proved to be the best sinful men can achieve. A monarchy rests on the good nature of one man and there is no such man until Jesus comes. An oligarchy rests on the goodness of a few but the chances of those few being in the best interest of the people are slim. A democracy depends on the goodness of the majority and their representatives. The chances of that happening have lasted longer than the other forms. But it is only a matter of time until the first believing generations fail to pass on the faith to the next generations. Then the majority will rule according to their own lusts.
What has been called “American Exceptionalism” really rests on America’s lapsarian understanding of man’s sins. We are a rule of law precisely because “the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners” (1 Tim. 1:9), and Christians understand that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The casting off of the rule of law is to promote sinful man above the law and to lose our humility before a righteous God.
Principles for Christians in a Christian Nation
First, Christian people who are blessed enough to live in America ought to live godly lives as members of a local church. We understand that this is the age of the local church. That is the entity God has chosen to work through to carry out His plans. It is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). A baptized believer without a local church family walks alone in the world and is being unbiblical. If God’s people would do what God has commissioned Christians to do through the church, the nation of their residence would be greatly blessed and strengthened. Our troubles have not come because Christians have not been involved enough in politics, but because they have not been involved enough in their own local churches, and those churches have not been involved enough in doing what the church is supposed to do.
Second, Christians in America should be model citizens. Paul taught us to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Tim. 2:2-3). “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). If we practice the fruit of the Spirit rather than the lusts of the flesh, “against such,” we find, “there is no law” (Gal. 5:23).
Third, Christians in America should be productive citizens. “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you” (1 Thes. 4:11). God made us to work and work is fulfilling and blesses our family and others. It was God who “gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), not the government’s welfare programs.
Fourth, Christians in America should defend their own country in law enforcement and military service. Since God has established government as His ordained means to control sinful men, it is not wrong for a Christian to make that his/her profession. After all, they are “ministers of God for good” (Rom. 13:4) also. No doubt, corruption in high places will frustrate the Christian civil servant, but as long as the agreed upon law of the land is still good in principle, the Christian may enforce it with all good conscience. From time to time, believers have had a tendency to almost worship patriotism because of a country’s blessing to them, but that has generally been better in history than having to flee for one’s life because of the evil nature of one’s country, as in communist or radical countries.
Fifth, Christians in America and everywhere else should remember that God is in control of it all. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it withersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1). “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” (Dan. 2:20-21). We don’t know the mind of the Lord, nor why we live in this land and not another, nor why we were born at this time and not another. Mordecai calmed the nervous Esther by reminding her, “and who knoweth whether thou are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). After all, “our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 4:20). We are stewards of the time and place in which we live.
And So . . .
It may seem right now that we have two Americas existing within the same geographical boundary. We have never been so split over values, morals, religion, and politics. There is no more land to begin a new nation. We will live through the present crisis and serve God either way. History does not teach us that men get better but worse. Prophecy teaches us that the darkest days are still ahead but there is a blessed hope for the church of Jesus Christ. As with the death of the body, we don’t know how or when, we just know it will happen, so also with the nations that exist before the Day of Jesus Christ.
As a citizen of this great country, my emotions can swing from joy to sadness. As a pastor of a local congregation, I have a responsibility to prepare God’s people, especially the next generation, for whatever is coming. In most things in life we prepare for the worst case scenario and then thank God when it turns out better. A blithely positive attitude is great if that negative scenario doesn’t come. But if it does come, will God’s people stand in the evil day, and having done all, stand? Some generation will see the dark days and be translated out, will it be us?
In the meantime, let us take William Carey’s admonition, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” A wise man said if he knew the Lord was coming tomorrow, he would still plant a tree today. This indeed should be the Christian’s finest hour. “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thes. 3:13).
1. Anthony Daniels, “The Worldview that Makes the Underclass,” Imprimis, May/June 2014.
2. See D.G. Hart, That Old Time Religion in Modern America, chapter 3, “Evangelicals and the Politics of Morality. Also see, John M. Barry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, part VI, “Soul Liberty.”
3. Dr. Henry M. Morris, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” originally written in 2005 and adapted for Acts & Facts, July 2014.