"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."
-- Psalm 33:12
There once was a pastor whose sermons were getting on his congregation's nerves. All he preached about were subjects from the Bible -- the love of God, forgiveness of sin and some hard-to-swallow promise that a God they couldn't see was with them always. They were tired of hearing such old-fashioned messages, which they believed had nothing at all to do with life in the modern fast lane.
Finally, the church council took their outmoded leader aside and said, "From now on we will decide the topics of your sermons. Next Sunday you will preach on pills."
"OK," the genial pastor replied "pills, it is."
There was a twinkle in the pastor's eye as he walked to the pulpit that next Sunday. "The subject of my sermon today," he said, "is pills. In the Bible there are four 'Gos-pills': Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...."
This is a pill column.
As often happens whenever I address the subject of "church and state," the response falls into two camps: those who cheer me on, and those who treat the subject as a target. So today, rather than offend anyone in the second camp, my subject is, "state and church."
Assuming all minds are already made up on what constitutes an aberration of the First Amendment, I'm not even going to hint at the government's responsibility in maintaining the presumed wall of separation. Instead I'm addressing what involvement, amended or otherwise, those within the church should or are allowed to have with the state, nation, municipality, etc., in which they reside.
For example, should church members be encouraged to vote, campaign for candidates or run for office themselves? Should they write letters to the editor -- or newspaper columns -- either to present their own views or attempt to change the opinions of others? In other words, is it the view of the Bible that involvement in affairs of state is their responsibility, too? Or should they keep their prayers, their Ten Commandments and influence to themselves lest they offend those on the other side of "the wall"?
There isn't room to digest all the evidence in the Bible that those who serve God in their church should serve Him in their country, too. And nowhere is there any instruction to withdraw and leave the governing only to those outside the church. Briefly:
Church members, like any good citizens, should not refrain from constructive criticism of their government, but they are not to speak evil of their leaders or reject the government's authority over them (II Peter 2:10; Matthew 22:17-22).
Leadership, whether in the church or in government, is one of the gifts of God. As the Apostle Paul explained to the Church at Corinth, when that gift is not exercised the whole body -- church, group, society -- suffers (I Corinthians 12:27-28). Two chapters later, Paul also said, "All things should be done in a decent and orderly way" (chapter 14:40). That instruction, as well as his reminder in chapter 13 that the church (love) "does not behave itself in a rude or unseemly way," seems to rule out disorderly protests of any kind.
The church doesn't need a platform to pray for their government or its leaders. They can "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17) in their homes and churches, or quietly in their hearts in any public place.
Likewise, church members don't need a statue of stone or a courthouse wall in order to observe the Ten Commandments. They may not be able to display them, but they can obey them. In this way, perhaps the words of Jesus to his disciples will be true after all:
"You (the church) are the salt of the earth (and) the light of the world... Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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