Contrary to the claims of politicians and some church leaders, Jesus is the “light of the world,” not any nation or political ideology.
I admit it. On this issue, I am the proverbial “broken record.” But sometimes, popular ideas cross a very bright red line and become antibiblical, if not idolatrous. Such is the case when church leaders publicly proclaim that “country A” or “ideology B” is the “light of the world,” the shining example set on a hill for all the world to behold.
Habitually, politicians invoke “god” to validate their agendas and power, and always, the most popular religions are employed in doing so. Just as today’s officeholders pay lip service to “Judeo-Christian values,” so the emperors of Rome appealed to their traditional gods for divine approval. Patriotism and religious faith become synonymous, and lack of nationalistic fervor morphs into heresy.
And today, all too often, certain Church leaders participate in this idolatrous circus, especially when partisan feelings run high. The inevitable result is the close association or even identification of God, Jesus, and Christianity with a nation, economic model, political ideology, or party.
The problem is especially acute in the United States of America, where, in popular forms of Christianity, it has become routine to categorize America as a “Christian nation,” as if one’s place of birth defined his or her religious beliefs. So much so, that preachers often proclaim the United States to be the “light of the world,” a “shining city set on a hill” to illuminate the rest of the world.
The issue is not whether the USA is good, bad, or indifferent. But such statements contradict the claims of Jesus, who declared that “I am the light of the world.” The identity and nature of God can only be found in him, and there is no truth or life apart from the Son of God – (John 14:6-11, 8:12, 9:5, Acts 13:47, 26:23).
Because they reflect his image, his followers become “lights of the world,” the “city set on a hill,” and they are called to let their “light shine before men so that they may glorify their Father in heaven.” The light found in Jesus, and reflected in his Church, is the light that illuminates all nations. Christ gave his life for the entire world, not for just one nation, ethnic group, culture, or political system – (Matthew 5:13-16, John 3:16).
Any attempt to associate or identify Jesus with specific nations, political groups, or ideological agendas is idolatrous, if not blasphemous. The Bible labels Jesus the “light of the world,” not western civilization, democracy, or free-market capitalism. That some Christians embrace such sentiments only demonstrates how far from the biblical ideal we have strayed.
There is no true light, liberty, peace, or life apart from Jesus. Scripture declares that the church is the true people of God, His “holy nation,” and the priestly kingdom that is called to mediate his light in a very dark world. Super patriotism and national idolatry propagated by Christian “leaders” only hinder that task.
Jesus did not establish his church to propagate democracy and “western civilization.” Instead, it is tasked with proclaiming the kingdom of God, calling all men and women to repent and submit to the lordship of its king, Jesus Christ, while the opportunity to do so remains.
Christians are a pilgrim people in this fallen world, and their true citizenship is in the kingdom of God. To be a loyal citizen of His kingdom means to give your total allegiance to its ruler. This leaves no room for dual citizenship or conflicted loyalties. Furthermore, sooner or later, all other existing regimes will cease to exist – (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:1-2).
Neither the government of the United States nor its society has ever acknowledged or submitted to the absolute lordship of Jesus. By default, it is other than “Christian,” a part of the existing world order that has been judged already on Calvary. It will “pass away” – (1 Corinthians 7:31).
The immersion of U.S. Christians into partisan politics has diverted many from their paramount task – To proclaim the gospel to all nations. Too many forget who and what they are, the people of God. Jesus did not task us with reforming society or the political system. The existing order is destined for destruction, its fate is sealed.
This is not a call to disengage from the world, but instead, to reengage with it using the biblical means – To become witnesses for Jesus. And his kingdom cannot be advanced by the ballot box, or by military, economic, or political might, but only through men and women who live cruciform lives that reflect his light.