Far from the drama and noise of our home city of Washington, D.C., my family and I spent some quality time immersing ourselves in the beauty of the Southern Arizona mountains this last week. I was reminded that our world, as dangerous as it might be, still belongs to the God who holds it all together by his sovereign power.
Exploring God’s creation also ignited a heightened awareness of his intricate artistry, pointing me to the praise of the Father as Creator. Meditating on these realities was a much-needed refreshment, given the discouraging occurrences at our nation’s capital as of late.
I was also reminded that regardless of America’s present trajectory, this world still belongs to the Father, and America is no less a part of it (Psa 24:1). Christians in America, therefore, need not fear or retreat into spiritual enclaves. Instead, we must wage war against the forces of evil as soldiers under the authority of Christ, seeking to make disciples and win our nation for him (Matt 28:18).
Sadly, a distinctly biblical and Reformed-transformational view of Christ and culture is not the norm in evangelical American circles today. In fact, in light of our current cultural decline, a number of common slogans get thrown around a lot, with good intentions but often idle results. One of those slogans is: “No matter who is president, Christ is King.”
No doubt there is a lot of weightiness and biblical truth to that statement. The mediatorial kingship of Christ, in its most basic form, teaches us that Christ is King of the nations. However, the statement itself can often be used as justification for passivity and withdrawal from civic engagement.
Christ is indeed King, but he is also King of kings and President of presidents, who uses his church as a prophetic voice to call civil rulers to repentance (Jonah 3:6). Moreover, Christ’s kingship calls his people to be linked, not to sin and sloth, but to cultural dominion over all areas of life, whether it be the arts, business, education, or politics (Gen 1:28).
Another common phrase is often perpetually recycled by Christians who desire to be counter-cultural: “God’s kingdom is not of this world.” This statement is an allusion to Jesus’ words in John 18:36. Far too often, Jesus’ words are used to caution Christians from pursuing involvement in politics or other matters that concern a “world” outside of the kingdom.
However, it is important to note that the term “world” in John 18:36 is a reference to the “evil world system” under the influence of Satan (cf. 1 John 5:19), not to the “material world” which God himself declared to be “good” (Gen 1:31). Creation itself is groaning under the curse of the fall, longing to be set free (Rom 8:22). Cosmic sanctification, therefore, cannot be ignored.
Granted, the prevailing culture of our time can cause the Christian to be overwhelmed. It almost seems as though we’re grasshoppers fighting against a giant. Same-sex marriage is law. Biden won. Abortion is legal. Churches are being shut down as non-essential services. As a result, far too many believers are treating the Christian faith as nothing more than an escape route to get to heaven. “This world is not our home,” they say. “We’re just pilgrims passing through.”
To be sure, the Bible does teach that Christians on this earth are pilgrims (Jer 50:5). However, the idea that we were not made for this world because we were made for another, is utterly misleading. For one thing, entrance into heaven as disembodied spirits will not be our permanent dwelling place. When Jesus returns at the final resurrection, the meek shall inherit “the earth,” not some other planet (Matt 5:5).
All of this means Christians should, under the authority of Christ, engage the culture for its redemption. The gospel of the kingdom is not a one-way bus pass to heaven, but the rule of King Jesus in the world as he places his enemies under his feet (Matt 4:23; 1 Cor 15:25).
We’re not going to be leaving our humanity behind to join Jesus in the spiritual realm. We’re going to be returning to the same (renewed) earth where every nation and living creature will worship Jesus as Lord for eternity (Rev 5:13).