Like many Christians, I have been emotionally stunned this past last week following the US Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. Being the pastor of a congregation, I realize I need to give my people guidance. I have not been in the best place to do that recently, and maybe I’m still not ready, but I am going to give it a shot. I am going to do this in a series of blog posts. This is just part 1 and in it we consider the following:
The truth of Christianity is not dependent on who or what America does.
One of my favorite Christian authors who greatly influenced me in my youth is Francis Schaeffer, who is now with Christ in heaven. I still think he has much to say to us today, but I have come to believe in made one major mis-step: He too closely tied the truth of Christianity to the goodness of America. This made it hard for him to see and deal with the faults of some of our founding fathers.
The truth is that Yahweh (Father Son and Holy Spirit), was (and is) the true and living God before the world began. The very existence of America, much less its goodness or badness, does not affect this reality one way or another. Jesus Christ was resurrected and ascended to the throne of heaven to govern heaven and earth, over 1700 years before America became a nation. He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and all humans will one day bow before him regardless of what happens to or in America.
We American Christians have too often wanted to make belief in the United States part of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. We have wanted to make the constitution equal to the Bible and George Washington equal to Jesus. We have wanted to make salvation a gift of God, received by faith in Jesus and the Founders. We have wanted to assure ourselves that God is always on the side of America making us a little better than every one else. This is idolatry. America’s relationship with God is exactly the same as every other nation on earth. We are not different. We are not especially favored by him.
We are so tempted to add something of ourselves to salvation by God grace alone in Christ. In this case, its being an American. This is works righteousness. The truth of God, Jesus and our salvation by grace is radically independent from what happens in any nation, much less America.
America has never been a perfect nation. From its very beginning, in its founding documents, it supported sinful practices such as slavery. And no, the Bible does not support slavery as it was being practiced in the American south before the civil war. In 1 Timothy 1:10 Paul condemns man stealing, a word that was used for the slave trade in the ancient Roman world. 99.9 % of the slavery in ante-bellum American south can be traced back to the kidnapping (man stealing) of West Africans. The Bible condemns that practice as sinful and thus the entire institution of southern slavery was sinful, yet the US constitution protected this sinful practice. From its very beginning America has legally condoned and supported sin. It should not surprise us that it does so now.
Christian in America, your identity must be found in Christ alone. You first and foremost are a Christian, not an American, not an American Christian, but a Christian. Your worth, identity, your future destiny have never been dependent on anything done in, with, by America, but upon the cross, resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is understandable if we are distraught by the Supreme Court decision, but if we let it make us doubt our faith, there was something wrong with our faith in the first place. God can use the US Supreme Court ruling to rebuke us for nation worship, allowing us to see clearly that Jesus alone is Savior and Lord.
This does not mean that as I Christian I can’t love my country and be thankful for the many blessings we receive from it. But it does mean that I will not put it on the same level as God. Christianity is true and Jesus is Lord regardless of anything America is or does. My faith is radically independent from my nationality. Christianity will continue to exist long after America has ceased to exist.
It is interesting that some who support same sex marriage are saying America can call itself a Christian nation now. We all want the will of whatever nation we belong to to somehow validate our faith. It was wrong when Christians did this before and it is wrong when they do it now.