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Kingdoms in Conflict, The Problem for American Christians

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A long time ago I read a book by Charles Colson about Christians and politics. I don’t remember a lot about the book but the title always stuck with me because I feel it describes our dilemma as Christians involved in politics. The title:

Kingdoms in Conflict.

So what is the conflict? Simple. Loyalty and obedience. Who should we be loyal to? America? Or God? Can you be both? I think the bible is clear in teaching that not only can we, we should!

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Now, whole books could be written about how Christians should engage with politics – and they have been – but there is also a short set of verses/passages that I use when thinking through what to do as a Christian, as it relates to politics.

I was reminded again this past week when I was talking to a friend of mine, a Christian, who just simply does not like mask mandates and thinks that we should rebel. I also do not like masks or the mask mandates and I think they are ridiculous.

But the conversation was about how we decide if and when we as Christians can and should rebel in conscientious objection or civil disobedience.

Here are those four bible passages to consider that will help us understand the nuances we navigate in living for Christ while being a good citizen of the United States.

Phil. 3:20 – We are citizens of Heaven

First and foremost we are citizens of heaven. That is our home and where we will spend our eternity. We live and will live eternally under the government of the one and only righteous King of Heaven. His law is final and just. I think we are probably all on the same page here so let’s proceed to the next passage.

II Cor. 5:20 – We are ambassadors of Christ

An ambassador is someone who lives in one country while being a citizen of another country. Since we are first and foremost citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, yet we live here, we are His ambassadors. We are His representatives here. Everything we do and say should be as a representative of His Kingdom. This is one of the reasons we are called to holiness, because it represents to the world who Christ is and what His Kingdom is like. Just like a human ambassador does his or her best to live and work appropriately in the country he or she is an ambassador to, we should also in all ways do our best to be godly ambassadors to earth in general and the United States specifically. The unique aspect here is that we are also citizens of the US, so we are ambassadors from our eternal citizenship to the country of our temporary place of citizenship. Again, I think at this point we are, most of us, in agreement. The next two parts of the equation are where it can get sticky, but I believe together they bring us to a very workable plan for living as citizens of both the Kingdom of Heaven and the US.

Romans 13:1 – We are to obey the government

Here is the full context of this passage as I feel it is warranted:

Romans 13:1-8 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

So let’s create a checklist of the key applicable points of this passage:

Be subject to the governing authorities.

There is no authority except that which God has established.

Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.

It is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue.

Since this is the bible and the bible is the authority for the Christian life, we must take this seriously. I think most Christians do. But the question that gets even the most devout among us is when and if we can disobey. What if we don’t like a law? What if we disagree with the law? What if we consider the law unjust? What if we believe it is immoral? All good questions. It is the last scripture that I think ties it all together and gives us the answers we are looking for.

Acts 4:19 – We disobey government only when they command ungodly actions

Here is the context of Peter’s proclamation. Peter and John had been preaching the gospel and the rulers, the Sanhedrin didn’t like it. So they told the Peter and John that they were to refrain from preaching about Jesus.

This is where the problems arise.

Essentially Peter and John made this case:

God told us to preach the gospel.
You told us not to.
God’s law trumps man’s law.
We are going to continue to preach the gospel.

In this case it is clear but sometimes maybe not. The conclusion, however, seems to be that when putting all of the above verses/passages together, we come to the conclusion that we are to obey government in all laws, even if we don’t like them, unless they go against God’s law.

For example, in China and other countries, there is forced abortion. The Christian should rebel because it breaks God’s law to kill life.

At the other end of the spectrum would be something simple like speed limits. You may not like it that the speed limit is 55 instead of 70, but it is not immoral or against God’s clearly outlined law, so we are called to obey. My friend asked me last week why God would have us obey even laws we consider stupid. My answer is that ultimately if there was the right to rebel against any law, and not just the ones that go against God, then we would have anarchy. God is a God of order and societal laws create order and structure.

Now here is where things can get tricky. Let’s take mask mandates for example.

On the surface, there is nothing immoral or against God’s law as it relates to wearing an article of clothing. If the government mandates that we all wear green jumpsuits, we may find it ridiculous, but it wouldn’t be against God’s law. What about masks, then? Well, I think the argument that could be made to justify civil disobedience would be the health aspect of it. God created healthy bodies, wants us healthy, gave us an immune system etc. God is for health. If masks make us unhealthy, then that is a law against God’s natural law and thus could be disobeyed.

Now, here is what you must also consider. While you have every right in God’s eyes to disobey, you still live here in the US and you may have to suffer punishment for obeying God rather than man, just like Jesus did. If they say that you can’t travel on a plane without a mask, then you may have to drive if you refuse to wear one. Thankfully they aren’t at the place yet where they are arresting people en masse for not wearing masks.

In 1996 I had the blessing of meeting with Pastor Samuel Lamb in Guangzhou, China. He was 71 years old at the time and had spent over twenty years in prison over the course of his lifetime. Every time the government decided he was getting too influential they arrested him and gave him more prison time. Every time he was released his church had grown. As he told me, eventually they stopped arresting him. Eventually his church was 3-4000 people strong. His memorial had something like 30,000 people at it. The greater lesson I learned from Pastor Lamb was that he accepted the punishment for disobeying. He didn’t scream and yell about his punishment. In fact, he told me an incredible story. When Christians were arrested and sent to prison camps they often had to stand all day in troughs filled with human waste. I asked him what they did to get through. “We sang hymns,” he said. I asked him what hymn they sang the most. Without missing a beat he replied, “In the Garden.”

In case you forgot, here are the words to that beautiful hymn:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Wow. Standing in human waste, he and the other Christians sang that song. It made their punishment feel a little bit like Heaven.

He knew what God wanted. He knew what the Chinese government wanted. He chose to obey God and accepted the punishment of the Chinese government because he knew that God would get him through it and bring it to an even greater end. Perhaps this should be our attitude in Christ, yes?

So where does that leave us?

We are dual-citizens. Heaven and the US.
We are called to obey both.
When the US laws are in conflict with the laws of Heaven, we obey the laws of Heaven.
This may lead us to trouble and even punishment from the US (or state or locality) government.
If that is the case, we are to continue to rejoice in God and His ways.

What would happen if we lived under these simple rules? I believe it provides exactly the playbook we need for deciding how we should engage in questions of obedience to government.

What do you think? Comment in the comment section!

About Chuck Colson:

Those familiar with Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentaries on faith and society might not recognize the work as being that of an ex-con. But then again, Colson is no typical ex-con.

From 1969-1973, Colson acted as then-President Nixon’s special counsel. In an administration already known for its tough guys, Colson was the toughest. He was known as the White House “hatchet man,” and the media once referred to him as “incapable of humanitarian thought.”

Then Colson found himself caught up in the Watergate scandal. He had helped to organize the illegal wiretapping of Democratic headquarters, and in 1973 Colson realized he was in big trouble. After some hesitation, Colson took a friend’s counsel and turned to God in his moment of distress. He found something in Christianity that changed his life. Of course, outsiders had a hard time believing that the “hatchet man’s” faith was genuine. When news of Colson’s conversion to Christianity reached the press, the Boston Globe wrily commented, “If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody.”

Colson entered Alabama’s Maxwell Prison in 1974 as a new Christian, and gained the vision there that led him to found Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 after his release. While an inmate, he promised his fellow prisoners that he would “never forget those behind bars.” He fulfilled his promise by investing the royalties from his book Born Again to begin Prison Fellowship.

Today there is no larger outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families in the world than Prison Fellowship Ministries. The Christian nonprofit has more than 50,000 prison ministry volunteers in 88 nations. Its programs range from various programs for prisoners and ex-prisoners; to Justice Fellowship, aimed at reforming the criminal justice system; to Angel Tree, which annually provides more than 500,000 children of inmates with Christmas presents on behalf of their incarcerated parents. In 1991, Colson also launched a daily radio commentary called “BreakPoint,” which aims to provide a Christian worldview on everyday issues. BreakPoint, which is aired daily on over 1000 radio outlets nationwide, is a Silver partner of Townhall.com.

Colson has received many awards in recognition of his contributions to society. These awards include the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion (1993), Dominos Pizza Corporation’s Humanitarian Award (1991), The Salvation Army’s Others Award (1990), and several honorary doctorates from various colleges and universities. Colson donated the $1 million Templeton Prize to Prison Fellowship, and he consistently gives all of his speaking honoraria and book royalties to the organization as well.

Today, the efforts of Nixon’s former hatchet man have made a huge dent in the lives of countless prisoners and prisoners’ children, and have even influenced federal criminal justice legislation. President Bush referred often to Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative Program when calling for support for faith-based initiatives. The prolific conservative has also published 38 books which have captured the hearts of millions of Americans over the last 25 years.

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Chris is the Founder of PolitiCrossing, one of the World's Top 50 Speakers and a member of the Motivational Speakers Hall of Fame. He considers it a privilege to be able to speak to people, help them lead successful lives, become extraordinary leaders and, masterful salespeople. Chris has authored twenty-three books with three million copies in print in 14 languages and over 450 articles on success, leadership, sales and motivation.



 
 
 

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Faith

The Left Is Fueling a New Racism

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It’s my firm belief that the number of Americans holding racist views is small, whether white, black, or Hispanic. At this point in our history, the vast majority of Americans try to live up to the challenge delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We keep moving toward the hard-fought dream he envisioned of an America where a citizen’s character would mean more than the color of their skin.

We are a different country today. I’ve presented leadership programs to hundreds of companies over the last 40 years. I’ve seen the work they’ve done to embrace diversity and advance capable employees and leaders from all races. Many minority members have advanced and earned their rightful place in making this great American economy work. At a time we should be celebrating and furthering our progress, our American culture is under attack from the left. Angry race-baiters are doing everything they can to increase our racial divide through pushing the 1619 Project, CRT, and BLM. They make extreme racist claims with a clear goal—to expand the government gravy train that only racial “victims” can justify.

I lived in pre-civil rights Atlanta where there were separate schools, separate bathrooms, and the baseball team was the Atlanta Crackers! Today, it’s more likely that leftist blacks are the ones who want separate schools, separate rights, and special reparations for their race.

As one anonymous post asserted, “Only in America can an ethnic group of black awareness month, black holiday, black only colleges, black only dating sites, and black only bars and clubs…and turn around and call everyone else racists!” You don’t have to look far to find evidence of extreme black racist demands.

In California, the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee released a report calling on the city to pay every qualifying black California resident $5 million and absolve them of their outstanding personal debt. This is madness. California was a free state and did not condone slavery, but the committee is doing all it can to justify reparations: “While neither San Francisco, nor California, formally adopted the institution of chattel slavery, the tenets of segregation, white supremacy and systematic repression and exclusion of Black people were codified through legal and extralegal actions, social codes, and judicial enforcement.” To the left, this “failure” warrants millions of innocent California citizens being forced to pay higher taxes to fund exorbitant benefits to one race they haven’t abused in any way.

In Washington, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is proposing a law that could codify black racism in America. There is a common mantra in her political speeches: White America is defined by institutional racism, systemic racism, white supremacy, and white nationalism. She attacks “white” America and seems to see the clan in the face of every white citizen. Such general attacks are evidence of a new racism—black racism.

Read for yourself Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s proposed law, the Leading Against White Supremacy Act of 2023. The legislation promises to criminalize criticism of any minority that is subsequently used to incite anybody else to commit a hate crime. The law reads: “A conspiracy to engage in white supremacy inspired hate crimes shall be determined to exist between two or more persons, at least one of whom published material advancing white supremacy, white supremacist ideology, antagonism based on ‘replacement theory,’ or hate speech that vilifies or is otherwise directed against any non-White person or group could, as determined by a reasonable person, motivate actions by a person predisposed to engaging in a white supremacy inspired crime.”

This is a chilling attack on freedom of speech against one race—caucasians. In short, if you criticize a minority and another person states that your statement was all the motivation needed to do a hate crime, you may be jailed because your criticism “motivated” a hate crime you did not commit. Get the message—be silent and conform or we will put you away.

Black racism is real and just as evil as white racism. Both must be soundly rejected by responsible citizens. As a Christian, I affirm my Savior’s claim that all God’s children matter! No responsible citizen should be shamed into silence by the irresponsible racist attacks of the left. Be proud of yourself and of America. Whether black, brown or white, success as a small business person or advancement as a good employee had to be earned by hard work, long hours, and diligent sacrifice. As with Americans for generations, it was not handed to you. You didn’t depend on government handouts to get ahead, you had to find a way to earn your own American Dream.

Reparations will never happen! Politicians can’t even afford to fund the entitlements they’ve already promised. Special black racist demands are unethical, divisive, and risk fueling a new racism backlash. Politicians from the left keep making the promises to fuel racist anger and secure special interest donations and votes.

Don’t fall for their racist rants and demands. Depending on government entitlements is never the answer. Instead, get busy following the models and learning from citizens of all races who have made America work for themselves and their families.

Let’s reclaim the American Dream Martin Luther King, Jr. affirmed. Do not judge a fellow citizen by the color of their skin. Celebrate the character of the vast majority of good American citizens you meet. Keep rejecting racism of any kind. It’s time to stand proud and applaud hard work and success wherever we find it, no matter what the race. May it always be so in this great republic we treasure…America!

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Faith

Tired? Hopeless? Discouraged? Read This.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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Want to Influence like Jesus? You can! Click here for Jesus: Master of Influence.

I get it. Many people are feeling tired, hopeless, and discouraged. Life is tough and the past few years have been really tough. But there is hope. Take some time to read slowly through this familiar passage. Focus on it. Claim the truths for yourself. Refocus your mind onto the truth of God rather than the problems of the world:

Psalm 23

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1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (He gives us everything we need with generosity)

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, (He brings us to a peaceful place)

3 he refreshes my soul. (He invigorates my spirit)
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake. (He takes me to where I need to go)

4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; (When evil is present, God is right there with me)
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (He brings comfort to us)

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies. (When my enemy is ready to fight, God is ready)
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Abundance is mine)

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, (God’s love for you is eternal and never-ending)
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (The promise of heaven is real for us)

Aren’t these great promises? Focus prayerfully on them today!

What would you do if you only had one year to live? This book asks that question. Click here.

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