On the difference between being a Christian and being an American

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daily text logoJuly 3, 2014

Acts 5:27-33 (in context)

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.

CONSIDER THIS

Have you ever thought, “If no one wants to put us to death for preaching the Gospel, maybe we are not preaching the Gospel”? I know. Maybe that’s a little over the top. But maybe it’s worth asking ourselves. In this country, as we approach the fourth of July and the celebration of American Independence, this connection between national independence and religious freedom and so forth gets a little muddy for me.

We are sure to hear the oft used slogan, “Freedom isn’t free,” and it is exactly right. The freedom we enjoy as Americans has come at the cost of many lives. We owe a debt of gratitude and a solemn stewardship to those who have died defending and contending for our nation’s independence. But we need to be clear about something. The freedom found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is of another order entirely than the freedom found in being an American citizen; even the freedom of religion. The freedom found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ was won at the Cross of Calvary, period. The freedom of the sons and daughters of God is not contingent on military protection, national security or sovereignty. In short, religious freedom is not Gospel freedom.

For most of this nation’s history, the Church of Jesus Christ has served as a kind of co-host to the populace alongside the American government. For all the “religious freedom” this arrangement has provided us, it has blurred the distinction between being a Christian and an American and in the process produced a fairly lazy and increasingly impotent Church. In the midst of so much religious freedom we must ask ourselves the hard question: How has the most so-called “Christian” nation in the world become more of a mission field than a mission agency in the short span of less than a hundred years?

become-a-grace-filled-guestOur season as co-host of this country is passing away, and it’s probably a good thing. The Church of Jesus Christ must now learn what it means to be a radically hospitable, grace-filled guest in this country. It is actually a much stronger position for the Gospel, because in the coming decades, being a Christian will mean more than being a good citizen. Following Jesus will yield far greater fruit because it will come at a far greater cost. Following Jesus will require the risk of Love.

That’s what’s going on in today’s text. “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The Gospel offends all power structures, for it produces a people who cannot be controlled by any power save the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.

Ending where we began. Have you ever thought, “If no one wants to put us to death for preaching the Gospel, maybe we are not preaching the Gospel”?

COME HOLY SPIRIT!

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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