A July 4th Rumination on  Resident Aliens

The blessed Reformers did not invent but discovered the theology of the two kingdoms in the Bible.  Jeremiah wrote of this in terms of the way Israel would live in Babylon:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29)

Jesus sent the Apostles into the nations.  Remember: both the Hebrew, goyim and the Greek, ethne, usually translated as “Gentiles”, is literally the nations.  The first great controversy of the nascent Church was her response to the Gentiles becoming citizens of God’s right hand Kingdom and the continuing struggle ever since is the way the Lord’s people sing the Lord’s song in many foreign lands. The Apostle Paul wrote to warn and exhort the Corinthians as they reduced the Gospel to slogans to justify their sexually immoral activity which was no different than their fellow non-Christian neighbors.   The full weight of Old and New Testaments, especially as taught by the Lord Jesus, in regards to the Church’s stance in the world is obviously to be in the world but not of the world, including all the world’s nations and cultures. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to pray for Caesar. The great revolution in Christ among the nations was we do not pray to Caesar. When the Church goes native and synchronizes with a particular nation then she will take on the doctrines and habits that will be inimical to her Life. Her Life is always the Blessed and Holy Trinity and every word of His Scriptures living in the Lord’s people of many times and climes.

We see the result of such syncretism in our own nation when whole church bodies capitulated to the culture by denying the 6th Commandment and the whole corpus of Scripture in regards to marriage, and accepted as good and a civil right that which is clearly sin. We have headless churches walking about oblivious to the pain they have and will cause. Never the less, the Lord says we are to love our enemies, but never to surrender to them. Richard John Neuhaus commented that if the Church is pushed out of the public square then the State will become the Church. Lives and eternal lives are at stake.  The Lord sent us out to fight the good fight of faith.

We are Resident Aliens (Title of a book by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willmon).  This is who the Church is and we are living on the cusp of a time in which,

“The Lutheran Churches are still sunning themselves in the delusion that they have something to expect from the world other than the dear holy cross, which all those must carry who proclaim God’s Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to mankind. But this delusion will soon disappear. Our American brethren in the faith will also learn this through painful experiences. (Rev. Prof. Hermann Sasse).

We need a new catechesis as resident aliens in our service for our nation as we proclaim God’s Law and the Gospel, and the place to return is always the Bible (e.g. Matthew 10) and to the witness of the martyrs from the 1st Century to the 21st.

I think the stance of the Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms was exemplified early on in a 2nd Century document:  “The Letter to Diognetus.” The author of this letter is unknown but the recipient, Diognetus, was a pagan of high social or political rank. The letter is an apology for Christianity. This letter from the late 2nd Century is a powerful example of an apology and is becoming more relevant in the 21st century day by day. Who we are is Whose we are.  I close with this quote for exhortation and encouragement in the trials ahead, remembering that our nation’s independence was from tyranny and  for political freedom, but the eternal, spiritual struggle is the freedom from sin, death and the power of the devil won in Christ Jesus to live free in Christ in  and for a darkened nation:

Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country, speech, or customs;  the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life.  Certainly, this creed of theirs is no discovery due to some fancy or speculation of inquisitive men;  nor do they, as some do, champion a doctrine of human origin. Yet while they dwell in both Greek and non-Greek cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and conform to the customs of the country in dress, food, and mode of life in general, the whole tenor of their way of living stamps it as worthy of admiration and admittedly extraordinary.  They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.  They marry like all others and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring.”  Their board they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven.  They obey the established laws, but in their private lives they rise above the laws. They love all men, but are persecuted by all.  They are unknown,  yet are condemned; they are put to death, but it is life that they receive.  They are poor, and enrich many;  destitute of everything, they abound in everything.  They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. They are calumniated, and are vindicated.  They are reviled, and they bless;  they are insulted and render honor.  Doing good, they are penalized as evildoers; when penalized, they rejoice because they are quickened into life.

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