So much of Christianity in North America blossomed out of the great revivals that took place across this continent. While there is nothing wrong with revivals taking place (I wish we had more of them), in such an atmosphere it is easy for the redemptive aspect of the gospel to overshadow or even eliminate the political aspect of the gospel.
Terms like Lord, Messiah, and King were all politically charged terms during the early history of Christianity and arguably so until the so-called conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine and his legalization of Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313. Prior to that, many Christians were persecuted because their confession of Jesus as Lord, Messiah, and King stood in direct denial to the power and sovereignty of the Roman Government and her rulers. We read of an example of this political rebellion in Acts 17 where the Christians at Jason’s house were arrested and brought before the city officials for “‘…defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus’” (Acts 17.7, TNIV). This is no different than the political rebellion of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3) or Daniel’s continued prayer to God which went against the decree from King Darius that all prayers should be offered to him alone (Dan 6).
Terms like Lord and King are all about sovereignty. Even though the United States of America came from Great Britain, we don’t elect politicians who wear the title of Lord, Messiah, or King. However, like all historical nations, government officials often speak and act as though the government(s) was/is sovereign. What is astonishing is that Christians, with limited exception, have often spoke and acted as though the nations are sovereign. While we confess that Jesus is Lord, Messiah, and King, such confession is no longer a political (and rebellious) proclamation against the claims of sovereignty by the governments of this world as it was for the Christians in Jason’s house or for Daniel and his three friends. How will the world believe the gospel if those claiming to believe do not even ascribe to the full extent of the gospel claim?
When elected officials declare that hope depends on the government, the Christian voice must unanimously rebel against such a claim and shout all the more loudly that hope is found in no one else but the One who is Lord, Messiah, and King. As the nation’s presidential election continues to take center stage, we Christians must respect the candidates as elected servants (which they are) but we must equally resist any temptation to treat them, their work, and the nation they serve as a sovereign entity on which hope depends.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (The Apostle Peter, 1 Pet 1.3-5, TNIV)
Two examples will make my point. First, shortly after September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared in a speech that “Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom — the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time — now depends on us;” see President George W. Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, September 200, 2001. At this point, I might remind us that scripture only declares one type of freedom and that freedom only comes from one source. Second, during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, current Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama too suggested that hope lies within the American political process when he stated “In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?”; see Senator Barack Obama, Key Note Address, Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004.