I love Thy kingdom Lord,
The house of thine abode,
The church our blest
With His own’ precious blood.
I love Thy church, 0 God:
Her walls before thee stand
Dear as the apple of thine eye,
And graven on thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and
toils be giv’n,
Till toils and cares shall end.
The moving heart-cry so beautifully expressed in this hymn by Timothy Dwight [c. 1800] has little place in the current rhetoric about “turning our country back to God.” Rather than being encouraged to build up the walls of Zion, Christians are being incited to spend their precious time and energy improving our nation. It is a misdirection of resources that has no New Testament justification. Just what does the NT teach us about how and where our energies should be spent?
In the first place, the NT addresses believers, not in terms of their national identity, but as those who have been baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13) where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28). They have become the earthly body of their exalted and risen head, Jesus Christ. On their behalf, God has placed all things under [Jesus] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body . . . [Ephesians 1:22-23]. Christ’s’ present reign over everything in the universe does not have as its primary concern the welfare of earthly nations, but of the kingdom given to him by his Father. Nor do his people have as their primary concern the affairs of this world, but rather the interests of the kingdom of their Lord and Savior. Their business when they gather, therefore, is not to promote human national agendas, but the objectives of the kingdom of God [Matthew 6:33; 16:19; et. al.].
Whatever days God may require believers to spend as aliens and sqjourners in this sin-cursed world should be spent as a living sacrifice, wholly committed to carrying out the implications of the new commandment given to them by their Lord and Master [Romans 12:1-2; John 13:34-35]. All that is expected of us can be fulfilled by humbly endeavoring to love one, another, as I have loved you. To help us understand how to do so, the NT has at least 58 one another instructions — not the least of which is the exhortation to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ [Galatians 6:2]. That command alone should be sufficient to occupy most of the time and energy at our disposal. Given the clear NT mandate to commit all of our gifts, graces and resources to building up the body of Christ, therefore, how can we justify wasting precious time on such futile efforts to apply moral tourniquets on the sinful hemorrhaging of an unbelieving culture?
Jesus died and rose again for our sins as individuals. But his purpose was also to gather his redeemed from every tribe, kindred and tongue and unite them into one new man through whom he might display a new model to a watching world [Ephesians 2:14-22]. Through the power of his indwelling Spirit, Christ’s earthly body has become a radical counterculture where forgiveness, reconciliation and love reign. As Francis Schaeffer put it, the local gatherings of God’s people are to be visible settings where significant sociological healing has taken place.
But there are evil forces directed, against Christ’s body. This is why it is also essential for us to be constantly engaged in building up the besieged walls of Zion. While we have Christ’s assurance that the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church, we must not become complacent about our need to repair the breeches as they occur. In our day, there are many crumbling portions of Zion’s walls that need our devoted attention. Church splits are rampant. Gossip, wrangling and all sorts of infighting are taking place in churches and denominations all over our nation. What possible biblical justification can we have for spending so much precious time and energy trying in vain to reverse the downward spiral of our American culture, when the walls of Zion are in such pressing need of repair? Christ never commissioned us to force external reform on a wicked culture, but he has certainly given us a clear warrant for maintaining Zion’s walls.
Does this mean we have no responsibility toward the lost outside of Zion’s walls? Of course not! It is not our duty to morally reform them, however, but rather to evangelize them with the gospel. We must also welcome all who respond into the body of Christ and do all in our power to help them become functioning members of the new man, the true kingdom of Christ [cf. Col. 1:5-13]. The agenda to “turn our nation back to its Judeo-Christian heritage” espoused by so many church leaders, therefore, is not a mandate from Christ, and can only serve to deflect his people from the responsibilities he has revealed and entrusted to them.
This is only part of an essay:
“God & Country” or Christ’s Kingdom?
The Dangers of Contemporary
by Jon Zens and Cliff Bjork