Evangelical Christians continue to be obsessed with political activism as the answer to the problems of our nation. “If we can only get the right people into the right positions who can then make the right laws we can turn our nation back to God,” many argue. As optimistic as this may be, it does not fit the biblical pattern of how God works in nations and, particularly, through His people by calling them to personal repentance. Throughout world history, God has judged nations for their disobedience to His commands. At the same time, however, He has had His faithful remnant of believers who place their personal faith and obedience to His Word as a higher priority than making noise in high places. This, they rightly believe, is the most powerful influence they may have for the sake of righteousness and the prosperity of the gospel.
Recently, I was reminded of this priority in my daily reading of Isaiah by the Day, which I purchased for myself at last month’s Basic Conference and am thoroughly enjoying. In this new devotional translation by Alec Motyer, I am growing to appreciate the book of Isaiah through learning to understand its message. The following words from Day 15 shine piercingly clear light into our foggy minds.
“National, political, social and governmental disasters and misdemeanors can all be traced to this one source: the Word of God has been sidelined. Isaiah saw it in his day and, with our eyes opened by him, we see it in ours. The beginning of the remedy lies in our individual hands: our greatest contribution to the good of our nation, to political stability and wholesomeness, to social standards and decency and to proper and just government, in our individual devotion and obedience to God’s Word. Recovery starts with me. Isn’t this what the Lord Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount? When he has set out the basic principles of kingdom-life (in the blessedness/happiness sayings, Matt. 5:2-10, which we put away in the deep-freeze by calling them ‘Beatitudes’) he immediately transposes the ‘they’ of general principle into the ‘you’ of personal discipleship (Matt. 5:11). This blessedness is for you when this is your life-style. But more: when this is your life-style you become the salt of purification and the darkness-dispelling light the world so desperately needs. Not by what we say but by what we are when his Word fashions our lives. The alternative way of life, when we set aside his Word, invites the Lord’s displeasure and leaves the world around without any bar to its inevitable corruption, or light to dispel its native darkness.”
Personal obedience to the Lord, along with prayer for our government leaders, and the spread of the gospel, comprise the key means by which we influence our nation for the good (1 Tim. 2:1-4). It is not that there are no other responsibilities we have as salt-and-light citizens, but we must continually remind ourselves that our citizenship is first and foremost in heaven, not earth.