God bless America. We hear that request a lot. But there is a corollary; America bless God. God makes covenants with his people so the blessing can be mutual. When a nation ignores, trivializes and excludes God, why should he bless?
“God bless everyone, no exceptions” is another choice. Its truth is that God knows no human borders, be they national, racial, economic, ethnic, political or whatever (check Revelation 7:9-10). All are created to be God’s children. It is thus something of a refutation of “God bless America,” if the latter implies God favors America more than other nations. However, the same corollary holds; everyone bless God. Our current covenant with God is the New Testament. All Christians worldwide are called on to be blest by God and to bless him in this relationship. It is a covenant sealed by baptism, not political citizenship in a favored nation.
Christians therefore live in a permanent tension between citizenship in an earthly nation and the citizenship bestowed by baptism into the Kingdom of God. Jesus on the surface appears to divide these loyalties; “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:17-21). But the whole earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24). What things on earth are not God’s? Caesar administers certain things as a steward of the Lord, even if he might do it poorly or be unaware of his role. He owns nothing, however. It all belongs to God. Christians respected the emperor and hoped he would be a good steward. They had no need to overthrow emperors under the delusion that they can be replaced by sinless Christian government (a look at church governance should be sufficient proof that such does not exist).
Yet when the political kingdom required undivided loyalty from Christians, they could not give it, nor can we. From the pinch of incense offered in worship to Caesar to the renunciations of faith demanded by Stalinism or ISIS, Christians in large numbers have chosen martyrdom over apostasy. Patriotism to any nation, including ours, is subservient to our baptismal loyalty to God’s kingdom. As Christians exercising our American citizenship, our vocation is to do so as stewards of the Lord’s earth. This may express itself in political terms and issues, but our motivation is always to be stewards.
Therefore, the crucial question is not which candidate for public office will deliver the most to make me affluent, secure or important, nor which candidate will make America the greatest empire. It is rather which candidate will best implement three axioms. Will he/ she or the political party or movement;
1. Take the best care of the earth, as its stewards under God,
2. Understand their limits, and leave salvation to the Lord,
3. Provide the best help to people, as God’s children, and not harm them violently, economically or socially.
You may throw up your hands at this point. On the one hand, the Christian cannot abdicate political participation, because we are mandated to steward the political process to care for the earth and its creatures, including humans, according to God’s will. On the other hand, the choices we have to achieve this are inadequate to the task.
Sorry, but you are not the first Christian having to work with less than perfect conditions. The stewardship of the earth is a complex matter, not helped by the universal propensity to sin. But it is your job and you need to do it with the resources and intelligence available. Waiting until perfection arrives is not an option.
1. This is a job, a calling. Educate yourself about the political process so that you are not duped due to inadequate knowledge of how the system works. Your vote is a weapon for the Lord. Aim carefully.
2. Remember there are many offices. Given the media frenzy, it is easy to be dazzled by the presidential race and forget the others. But a president can be blocked by Congress, so your senator and representative are very important. States have many crucial powers. So your governor and state legislators are also vital. And so it goes. Each race must be studied and evaluated.
3. Do not be fooled by those who are obsessed by one issue and blind to others. For example, “Pro-Life” slates are often crafted by people with mixed motives. It is no substitute for doing your own research and study. Be wary of those who claim to be the “Christian” candidate, and look instead at their record and proposals. How will they match the three axioms listed above? “Put not your trust in princes,” says the Psalmist (Ps.146). No politician can bring salvation. Trust more in those who have reasonable expectations for what they can achieve.
4. No one who proposes to govern by hurting, invading, exploiting or oppressing others can steward the earth according to God’s plans.
5. Finally (and too late for this election), remember that by Election Day, others have shaped the choices in primaries, party caucuses, and by working for and contributing to candidates or parties. The earlier you enter the process, the better your choices will be on Election Day. For instance, the failure of the current presidential race to offer a viable candidate in either major party could have been avoided if enough of us had been perceptively involved earlier in the process.
Until the last day, the earth is still the Lord’s and he is the life of the world. He will prevail despite our sin and bad choices. This is of great comfort. But he also asks us to be good stewards. Let’s try not to make his job any tougher than it already is.