There is an unbiblical idea that America is or was a Christian nation. There is no such thing, never has been and never will be. The idea of a “Christian nation” or establishing one through any supposed dominion mandate goes against every biblical reference of God’s people being pilgrims. If such a nation existed, we would no longer be pilgrims, and Scripture knows no time this side of the Second Coming that that would be so.
You will always be a pilgrim, Christian. Peter uses that very term in 1 Peter 2:11:
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (KJV)
Other translations offer the following: foreigners and exiles (NIV); temporary residents and foreigners (NLT); sojourners and exiles (ESV); aliens and strangers (NAS); strangers and temporary residents (HCSB).
That should paint a clear picture for us. That we are strangers, foreigners, aliens, or “temporary residents” demonstrates that we exist in a place that is not our own (the world). That we are pilgrims, exiles, or sojourners depicts that we have another home, a better home, to which we belong to as we pass through or reside in the foreign land.
Living as pilgrims in a foreign land does not mean we do not have a role in the foreign land. We even have a few Old Testament examples to help us understand our role – Joseph and the Israelites living in Egypt; and Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego living in Babylon. In fact, the Jewish men exiled in Babylon were prime examples of faithfully living out the instruction found in Jeremiah 29:7:
…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…
Daniel and the other men were exiles in Babylon, living as two-kingdom citizens. They were not called to isolate themselves in their Jewish bubbles, neither were they to try to conquer Babylon and establish Mosaic law there. No, instead, they were to “build houses and settle down” (v. 5) and seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Contrary to what dominionists espouse in “redeeming the culture”, these Jewish exiles
never attempt to turn Babylon into something other than Babylon. They never try, for example, to turn Babylon into another Jerusalem or to impose the Mosaic law upon the Babylonian people. Babylon was part of the common kingdom, and they did not try to turn it into the redemptive kingdom founded upon the covenant with Abraham. (1)
Beyond living as ordinary people among the Babylonians, the Jewish exiles were also to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon. As servants of the Babylonian kingdom, they were in a position to influence that kingdom in their obligation to rule justly under the Noahic covenant. Thus,
Daniel and his friends serve God, therefore, by serving Babylon, not by trying to transform it into a New Jerusalem. (2)
While Daniel and the other Jewish men were to be faithful as “common men” in the Babylonian kingdom, they were not to submit to the kingdom at all costs. Both Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to lay down their life rather than betray God. For Daniel, he refused to obey the edict to not pray to the Lord, and for the other men, they refused to bow the knee to Nebuchadnezzar’s false god. They all were sentenced to death for their crimes against the state, as it were, for they recognized their allegiance to God trumped any command to disobey the Lord. They obeyed God rather than man.
That we are pilgrims “born from above” in the redemptive kingdom, living in the common kingdom, does not mean we absolve ourselves from speaking the truth or calling out the sins of government. Daniel did this very thing:
Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity (Daniel 4:27).
When we see the government establishing wicked laws like legalized abortion or institutionalizing sodomy and lesbianism by redefining marriage, we can and we must oppose and expose the government’s legislation for the wickedness that it is. Last week, Franklin Graham demonstrated how this is done faithfully (and respectfully) in opposition to President Obama’s advocacy of homosexual sin and the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage:
Franklin Graham and all preachers of the Gospel, not only expose the works of darkness when they make public remarks such as the above, but this too serves to “seek the prosperity and peace” of the nation. We do good to the land when we admonish wicked rulers.
This is not unlike what all Christians are called to. We, as pilgrims, are called to seek the welfare of our nation, even perhaps the welfare of other nations in our modern civilization. We should pray for our leaders, influence the just rule of governments when we are able, live as common citizens loving our neighbors in our community, but never compromising our allegiance to King Jesus. We are indeed exiles in this land, this common kingdom, but we have a stewardship to seek its good and to correct it when it errs. But, whatever good we do or try to do in society, we need to not hold on to it too tightly and recognize it is only temporary (just like the Jewish exiles knew their time in Babylon was only temporary)…and it is fading away.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at our heavenly citizenship.
(1) VanDrunen, David. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. 95. Print.
(2) VanDrunen, David. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. 96. Print.