Church As State


ChurchAsState“Our citizenship is in heaven.” ~Philippians 3:20

 The apostle Paul intentionally uses political language, the very Greek words from which we get our English words “politics” and “politicians” and “policy,” to drive home a very important point to the little church in Philippi.

Our home is in heaven. Heaven is our homeland. And while we’re here on earth, we are a colony — a commonwealth — of heavenly citizens.

To confess that Jesus is Lord is to say Caesar is not. To claim citizenship in heaven is to declare our allegiance, first and foremost, to God’s Kingdom, not the Empire. To conduct ourselves politically or to behave as a citizen (Phil. 1:27) of that Kingdom and as subjects of our crucified and resurrected King is to first understand that none of it is of this world. He, nor his Kingdom, are from here. So, therefore, neither are we. The Kingdom to which we belong transcends all national borders. The Kingdom respects no geographical boundaries or distinctions of powers. And as colonists living under the rule of our Christ, we rise high above any national thought, national pride, or national agenda. The Gospel of Jesus levels all of us into an eternal and international community of those who follow the Savior. And it’s his Kingdom that deserves our undying allegiance.

If citizens of heaven do choose to engage in the politics of America or any other earthly country, we approach it, above all, from the standpoint of our relationship with God. Scripture tells us that Christians survive in a hostile environment not by legal proceedings against persecutors but by endurance; not by imposing a lifestyle on others through law but by living holy lives that compel others to watch us; not by destroying others with sound bites and emails but by respecting them even as we witness to the eternal truths of the Gospel.




  1. jeff

    Let’s recruit some more immigrants to the heavenly kingdom.


  2. Rob Barber

    I think Chuck Jones had it right with Ralph the Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog.

    Rancor serves Satan. We can strive for what we believe is right, and never stop loving those we politically strive against.

  3. Allan

    I might respectfully disagree. While I love the old Chuck Jones cartoon—it brought back wonderful memories of watching Cartoon Carnival on channel 11 with my little sisters—I don’t think it applies.
    One: Sam protects the sheep by smashing Ralph over the head, dropping him off a cliff at least twice, bouncing a cannon ball down his throat, sliding him into a tree, and crushing him under the weight of the earth. That kind of “striving” certainly isn’t Christ-like. Loving those I “strive against” would never mean treating them with violence. That would include any insults, personal attacks, and jokes I pile on top of people who disagree with me politically.
    Two: as citizens of heaven, protecting the sheep is not my mission. The Church’s call is to join our Father in saving the world. So Sam’s call is to protect Ralph and treat Ralph just like God treats Ralph. To beat Ralph up communicates to Ralph and anybody else who sees it that Sam does not love Ralph. Regardless of what Sam says about it.
    Three: we should always strive for what we believe is right. But we should not use man’s systems or earthly structures to do it. Our striving, our promoting, our persuading, should be done in the context of Church. God’s systems. God’s structures. To use American systems and structures—elections, debates, lobbying, pressure, attack ads—to advance the Kingdom, I think, is to be disloyal to the Kingdom.

  4. Caleb Courtney

    AMEN! You are bold, and not for yourself but for God. Israel wanted a king, but they already had one. I am anxious to get a recording of your sermon from this past Sunday, I heard it was right on the mark, calling us all to recognize our true citizenship.
    Your post reminds me of Lee Camp’s “Mere Discipleship.” He talks about how in Rwanda, the most Christian nation in Africa, Christians abandoned their true citizenship for their earthly tribes of ‘Hutu’s” and “Tootsi’s” and begin killing each other ruthlessly.
    Earthly kingdoms are great, insofar as they echo the will of God. But we must never allow our civic pride or patriotism supercede our faithfulness to the kingdom of God. Thank for your encouragement, especially at this time of year.

  5. Allan

    Someone mentioned to me last night that we should pray for God to intervene and choose the right candidate for President. I answered, “I don’t think I want to pray that prayer. If it’s up to God, he may just blow this whole thing up!”
    You’re right, Caleb, we already have a King. Whatever happens tomorrow has ZERO impact on my heavenly citizenship, my heavenly mission, or my heavenly master. ZERO! It also has absolutely no bearing on the Church’s mission. NONE. It doesn’t impact it in any way. If tomorrow’s election or the next President of this earthly country impacts your life or the mission of your congregation, something’s wrong.

  6. Kenny Smith

    This is my personal opinion from a different perspective. Maybe it is a generational thing or generational influences. From listening to the sermon Sunday I felt a strong need to speak up.

    First, I do believe God comes first, before country and even before your own family. No question. However, I don’t believe we should stand by and let our country be taken over by evil secular forces out to destroy our
    whole existence.

    I believe God made us with a free will, that knows right from wrong, with the ability to make choices, and to stand for what we believe are true Christian values.

    I believe the United States is the greatest country ever conceived, and was created with the helping hands of our Lord. We as Americans have died on many battlefields protecting this right of freedom, to worship as we please, without government interference. This hard won right has nourshised our faith and our families and our commitment to Jesus for over 200 years. Are we to deny the sacrifice by the founders and our men who gave their lives for our country to just stand by and let this country be taken over by evil forces?

    Just look at how the Christians reacted to the onslaught of a Hitler in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. They believed Hitler would not interfere with the church. No one ever conceived the idea that he would commit genocide on the Jews as they stood by and offered not a bit of help.

    It took America to right this wrong and stamp out the onslaught of Nazism, Facism, and Toto’s Japan.

    I, as an proud American, will do everything in my power to keep our country the force for good around the world. l will do everything I can to protect my children and grandchildren and allow them to live in a free United States of America, to have religious freedom and have a have a life being a servant of Jesus Christ and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

    I will vote for the men and women whom I believe will more closely follow my Christian values. With all due respect, I totally disagree with you about elections not having any impact on our life on earth. Elections affect the future abilities of Christians to serve the Lord.

    Tomorrow will be a good example.

    If Obama is elected, we will have a president who believes abortion is OK at any stage, and further, little babies that survive a botched abortion should be allowed to die. He believes same sex marriage should be made law of the land. I know Obama is just an earthly politician, but should we as free will Christians just idly stand by and let these things happen before our eyes? Why?

    I pray that I am doing the right thing in the eyes of the Lord by even writing on this blog, and my brothers and sisters in Christ will understand where I am coming from.

    In Christian love,

    Kenny Smith (I am Jean Smith and I approve this message.)

  7. Allan

    Any conversations about the Kingdom in the spirit of mutual love and respect are right in the eyes of the Lord. God calls us to live with each other in community. And that means being able to talk openly without judging and learning from one another and encouraging one another. Thank you, brother, for your response. Please allow me to respectfully and lovingly reply.

    Which values are godly and which ones are ungodly? Abortion and homosexual rights, to me and to all who submit to the Lordship of Christ, are deplorable. But what about war? What about the killing of people overseas, even in the name of defense? Even in the name of protecting our rights and freedoms? Much less for economic reasons? What about the growing gap between the rich and the poor? What about a platform that completely ignores the poor and those unable to provide for themselves the basic necessities of life in the interest of keeping our economy running? I do believe God weeps over every baby who is aborted. Scriptures tell us that God also weeps over the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate. I also believe our Father weeps for every soldier killed in senseless battle: Iraqi, Afghanistan, and American. And for their spouses and children. There are many, many parts of the Republican platform that fly directly in the face of the teachings of our Christ.

    What do we do with our Christian brothers and sisters who prayed to our God in the name of Jesus that Obama would be elected President so this nation would turn its eyes back to the Lord and take more seriously the teachings of Jesus, to stop the senseless killing and war and to work harder to bridge the gap between the sinfully wealthy and the destitute? What do we do with them? Do we say they’re not really disciples of Jesus because I disagree with them politically on which policies and platforms are more Scripturally-based than others? Or more important on an individual list of priorities?

    The more I study our Scriptures and the more I reflect on this country whose message and culture opposes the Church at every turn, the more I’m convinced we don’t live in a two-party system. I don’t see two parties anymore. I see one huge, giant, corrupt system of anti-Christian, anti-Kingdom thought and philosophy. So, what’s the answer? Vote for the lesser of the two evils? Probably. That’s what I did.

    You say, Kenny, that we can’t stand by and allow this country to be overrun with evil secular forces out to destroy our whole existence. I say this country IS an evil secular force out to destroy the existence of the Church. And the New Testament says the same thing.

    The problem, as I see it (Carrie-Anne doesn’t even fully approve this message), is that we equate God and Country when the two are actually opposed to each other. We honor killing other people to protect our rights as some kind of Christian value when, in actuality, that idea is anti-Christian. America is all about rights. The Kingdom of God, of which we’re citizens, is all about totally giving up our rights. America is all about independence. The Kingdom is all about complete dependence on God. What drives our economy and, thus, our politics and, thus, what shapes our country are greed and consumerism and lust. The messages in the culture of this country are those of sex and violence and noise and individualism. And all of those things, and many more, couldn’t be more directly opposed to our Christ and his Kingdom.

    You say our rights in this country have nourished our faith and our families and our commitments to Jesus. I’d argue just the opposite. I believe one of the main reasons God’s Church is getting weaker and weaker in this country is because we have so many freedoms and rights and luxuries. We’ve compromised God’s Church by our unholy alliances with this world.

    God’s Church in Europe did stand by as Hitler and his men murdered millions of innocent people. The Church did nothing. The Church even taught that God’s people should do nothing. The reason is because the Church was so tied up in and with the earthly politics and systems of the nation.

    And I wonder about God’s Church in America. How tied up are we in the politics and systems of the USA? So much so that we justify evil in the name of God and country?

    There’s nothing easy about this. It’s a difficult message to hear. And it’s difficult to preach. I pray for God’s continued mercies on his people and his Church. And lots and lots of grace for his gospel preachers.

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