A guest post from my friend and fellow blogger, Ted Gossard:
We are in another United States presidential election cycle, and this seems to be the nastiest campaign in memory, probably in my lifetime. And the divisions are as hurtful as they are deep. Certainly the nation is divided.
To some extent that can be expected, in fact people dividing to the point of war over differences is something the American democratic republic was built in significant part to avoid. No coercion by a state church, which actually took decades to become reality, and the recognition of all people being equals by their Creator with corresponding rights, still a work in process, though significant progress at great cost has been made.
At the risk of oversimplifying a big and complex subject, this post is meant to make one point which I think explains a lot: World government and the politics that goes with it is a domain of the world, the flesh and the devil, and while God in his sovereignty is at work as well, ruling and overruling, those caught up in and given to this domain will become subjects unwittingly or knowingly to it.
Of course God is at work in the affairs and kingdoms/governments of humankind as well. God raises up a rulers or officials, and puts others down, but in ways we actually really can't explain, if one takes the face of the world seriously. And yet we believe that God is somehow at work in all of this, carrying out his will, but in ways which we can neither trace nor understand well, if at all.
What is most troubling in all of this is how Christians are lured into this system. Then as part of that, they vehemently divide from each other over it, as if some paradigm they've embraced is gospel.
Daniel served as one devoted to God's kingdom as a government official in idolatrous kingdoms. He didn't compromise; he is known for that, which surely required a special ongoing reception of grace from God. And there is no doubt that plenty of good along with evil can be accomplished by the state. So that we can't simply wash our hands of it, and refuse to participate in any way, shape or form. Our citizenship inevitably carries privileges along with responsibilities. Just what we should do will differ from person to person, though we are urged to pray for all who are in positions of government authority.
For the Christian, the church through the gospel is to embrace and begin to live out in a world with evil nothing less than "the politics of Jesus" (see The Sermon on the Mount), the beginning of the kingdom under Jesus destined to someday rule over all kingdoms of this world. The good news in Jesus is what we in Jesus are to live in (and out) and if need be, die for. There is an emphasis on becoming disciples or followers of Jesus, our lives being a witness to that reality in and through Jesus's death and resurrection. Now ascended, we await his return when the final judgment bringing in the full salvation will come, and all is made new in and through him.
What we must avoid is the relentless and seductive, even if subtle lure of the world: described as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Money, sex and power are three dominant idols that are normally part and parcel of a world that wants to live apart from God, in rebellion against God. We need by God's grace to be wary of such, and refuse to go for that bait, by remaining true to the kingdom we inhabit in which Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.
But we do so as those who, living under that lordship, show the world a better way, perhaps through which God will be pleased to work in both judgment and salvation in bringing about something closer, even if overall still far removed from God's kingdom. But we do so ever knowledgeable of the reality of the continual undertow, the temptation which will inevitably be present in the government and politics of this world system, again through "the world", "the flesh" and "the devil". So that we refuse to bow the knee to any of that, even when we might stand shoulder to shoulder at times with those who do.
And so we in Jesus must beware and be aware, and be sure we are putting first things first, as a witness to the world of the way, the truth and the life, the true Light found only in Jesus.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)