Word from the Center: Friday, July 6, 2018

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s issue…

Why Issues of Cultural Liberty Are also a Church Concern.

It’s the week of the 4th of July, a time when Americans celebrate the freedoms that they have in this country. You hear marching bands this week. You see fireworks. You even hear the Star-Spangled Banner, along with the enduring hope of liberty that those stars and stripes are meant to embody. For many this is a purely secular, political event, as if there is nothing inherently spiritual to it at all. For others it is a deeply religious event that may even have millennial hopes and dreams connecting American freedoms to the very coming of the Kingdom of God. Both of those positions ultimately miss the point. For those who are secular, they miss the point that God is indeed at work. He is preserving this country and our freedoms from our inherent selfishness and sinfulness through people’s various vocations, often times in spite of ourselves. For the religious folks who blend the work of the Church and the State into one, they miss the absolute uniqueness of God’s Kingdom, created and inaugurated by the person and work of Jesus ALONE. One that is not “of this world,” but it is “in this world” as a gift for all to receive solely by grace through faith in Him (see Jesus’ words in John 18:36).

So, is there another way to celebrate the 4th of July? Is there a 3rd way? Well, yes. And Jesus defines that way in Matthew 22 when He says, “Give to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.”  Later, he even reminds Pontius Pilate (one of Caesar’s boys) that the authority Pilate has in this world is also from God alone (John 19:11). For people who realize that God is at work two different ways, to preserve the world and to save the world, there is a way to celebrate the freedoms that all Americans cherish, even as we proclaim the unique freedoms that only Christ can give. For those who are Two-Kingdom people (those who know that God is at work in the civil AND the spiritual realms in two different ways), it is a time to celebrate the unique liberties that God has made available to us in this country, and to rejoice in the results of their wise, faithful use. While at the same time, we remember that even these liberties, as unique and wonderful as they are, are nothing compared to the eternal liberty that Christ earned on the cross for all. Our American liberties may form a “better union,” a more civil and tolerant and just society compared to others, but it is merely a band aid fix that still yearns for God’s ultimate work, a work that only He can accomplish for all.

One of the reasons why the LCRL is in Washington is to ensure these God-given fundamental rights are respected for all, and to make sure that they are differentiated from God’s ultimate liberating work in Christ which can never be accomplished by politics, polity, or policy. One can celebrate our liberties as Americans, and even defend them, while differentiating them from the Gospel which alone can truly save. Remember St. Paul in Acts 16 when he claimed his Roman citizenship and used it for his own protection, even as he sought to proclaim the Gospel for all to hear. Think about that when you put the hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, or when you talk to your neighbors about cherishing your American freedoms, and the freedom that really matters in Jesus ALONE.