Foundational to the United States is separation of church and state. The US Government is not to have a national religion. Today we treat the separation of church and state as two worlds sharing the same land. Many understand the concept to mean, “The church has no right to dictate morals to the government.” “The government is not to tell churches what to do, tax them, or favor them.” What has happened among the culture is both entities are considered two realms.
Some seem to divide the entities so sharply creating two worlds that never interact. Therefore praying for a political leader is even out of focus because the church and state are separate. Christians standing up against homosexual marriage is wrong because it is a church doctrine and therefore cannot cross the boundaries into state, “We’re not talking about your faith, we’re talking about rights.” Some Christians have to justify to others their political involvement. But should their be a separation of church and state?
The “religious right” says no. . . . well at least to a degree they say no. They claim they have the right to join together to vote and influence policy and law. But they would never favor a national church. They indeed do have that right. But many Christians react to the religious right declaring, “Laws don’t change people, we need to focus on the gospel. God doesn’t call believers to be a political block.”
Throughout the ages, in fact for centuries, there has been a working relationship between the church and state. In Colonial America Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, and Cotton Mather used to work with local government as a church body. The state and church were united in goals and ambitions. The reformers (Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther) worked with the state for reform! Anabaptists were condemned by the state with local pastors involved in those decisions. The current culture has come a long way since these days. The Bible does not support this relationship. But out of response to the centuries of church / state relationship (back to Constantine) has the pendulum swung too far the other way?
The question stands, “Should the church be separate from the government?” The answer is simple: No!
The church needs to be united to the state but not in the the cultural climate sense or as seen throughout the centuries. Local churches are established throughout every state, county, and city by believers. Those local churches need to remember they are a part of the state!
How so? The church must remember it is a “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The church is a group of “ambassadors” in the world, “God making His appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). Paul even declares the church stands united fixed on the goal of striving together for the faith of the Gospel (Phil 1:27, see also my last post).
The church stands as a community of people, united as the family of God, who together edify each other so that individuals can be equipped ambassadors telling and showing the community the Good News Christ has come, He died, death has no dominion over Him, and He resurrected! His death was in place of my death, the death I deserve because my sin demands punishment. But instead I stand reconciled and united to my Creator because Christ died in my place! I stand forgiven with an eternal inheritance, imperishable and undefiled!
The church must remember it has a place in the community. It lives in each community operating as a foreign embassy filled with ambassadors who care for the community! How does it care for the community? It focuses on the greatest problem the community seeks to suppress: a personal relationship with God the Father! Therefore we enter into the community and engage the community. We do it by faithfully following our Savior, according to His Word, living with the goal in mind!
We are not focused on legislation (although being politically involved is not necessarily wrong — all things can be an idol — but not all things are an idol to each person). We are not surprised to see governments act unrighteously because we know the human heart. Instead we faithfully proclaim the good news. We serve those around us for the sake of telling them the Gospel. We don’t cower from the state because its a separate entity. Instead we understand our role in the community: A group of ambassadors, with a seat in heaven because of Christ, declaring to others open seats for forgiven worshipers!
The church is a pillar of truth to a community who needs the Gospel! Our agenda is the Gospel. We tell the Gospel because only it can change people and solve their greatest problems. Legislation will not grant access to God’s Kingdom! We, the church, are the only ones who know the greatest problem and the greatest needs of the community because God gives us the ability to discern the greatest need! We stand united to share the Good News to the local state who needs us!
On a similar note. There is a ministry that reaches out to give the gospel to state leaders. I recommend this ministry. Please pray for them and support them! http://www.capitolcom.org/