Sunday, May 28, 2017

Promoting good citizenship. . .

As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend, it occurs to me that there will be congregations all over the US who will carry in the flag, have an honor guard, sing patriotic songs, and hear patriotic messages.  I suppose it could be worse but it does bother me that when we think of patriotism we think of hijacking Gospel for the sake of being good citizens.  Being good citizens is something good and if we do it right, we do not have to hide or skip the Gospel.

In times of threat when it seems the Gospel is being constrained and in moments of persecution when the Gospel is being threatened by restrictions and by those who label it hate speech, we do not need patriotic displays on Sunday morning to prove we are good citizens.  We need good citizenship Monday through Saturday.

On this day when we are mindful of our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, it seems very little indeed for us to strive to be model citizens in respecting the rule of law, seeking to obey the laws (except where they conflict with Scripture), and praying for our nation and our leaders.  Good citizenship is not waving the flag on Sunday morning but living up to that flag Monday through Saturday.  This should be a no-brainer for Christians.  St. Paul has laid out some of the things we should be about when the Church was under threat and Christianity itself was not a legal religion.  Those of us who live where we are free to be Christian ought to use every opportunity this liberty provides to show forth what is good, right, beautiful, and honorable before the nation.

Praying for our leaders, praying for our nation, and praying for the fruitful exercise of liberty's gift is one of the hallmarks of our Christian identity.  Living to serve our neighbor in love is not an optional or occasional activity for Christian people -- it is our life.  Perhaps now more than ever, good citizenship is needed from those in the pew.  We will be misunderstood and we will be threatened by those who try to dilute or deny the truth of the cross and empty tomb . . . BUT we fight on various levels and not always with the mouth or the pen.  In fact, though God does not need any of our good works, our neighbor does and those good works may be some of the profound means by which we manifest the true nature of Christ and His Kingdom.

I am always moved by Memorial Day, by the stark numbers of those long ago and only yesterday who paid the ultimate price to defend my freedom and protect my nation.  I am moved by the many ways in which we keep alive this cost of freedom and honor those who died to protect the American way of life.  But the best way for the Christian to honor the sacrifices of those who died is not to turn the church into a patriotic hall of fame.  No, it is to compel us with the Word of God to be the good citizens we ought to be -- from the neighborhoods in which we live to the states that mark our greater borders.  Christians, be good citizens and the attacks of our enemies on Christianity will not stick.  We have more than a message of "no" to all that is wrong; we also have the good works of Him who called us from darkness into His marvelous light.

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

The serious work of Christians in their vocation as citizens needs to be done throughout the week, and not haphazardly on those various election or polling days.

A pastor needs to spend those few hours of worship services and Bible classes to the preaching of the Word of God, applying it as C.F.W. Walther noted, with the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. The same applies to the religious leaders of Lutheran church bodies, especially the Missouri Synod. While such a leader does not have a Divine Call as pastor in that position, he has been elected to supervise, advice, admonish and reprove the teaching and practice of doctrine within that church body.

When Synod leadership and pastors are involved with or promote political organizations and causes, especially those which are not in keeping with, or even opposed to, Christian principles, they do serious damage to the Lutheran church and Lutheran congregations.

Historically one can refer back to the infamous October, 2004, Lutheran Witness issue, which included the article, "Bush, Kerry, and the Christian Voter," by Jeff Walz and James Burkee, of Concordia University-WIsconsin.

In the subsequent December, 2004, Lutheran Witness issue, the Purple Palace admitted to delays and censorship on advice from its "legal counsel," amid a host of critical letters-to-the-editor castigating the October issue (some of which were received in October and could have been published in the November issue).