In yesterday’s post we looked at what was happening historically when Jesus issued this summons, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is my conviction that Jesus was actually redirecting the focus of the apostles from a nationalistic concern to the missional task at hand. So now I want to bring this all home for the context of American Christianity.
We seem to have come full circle in Christianity, at least in our American context. Today, more than ever, it seems the primary concern of Christians is national politics. More and more Christians seem concerned with what will become of the nation as well as exalting the god of patriotism. A good example of this can be found right on Facebook.
At this point you might think I am being a bit harsh, so let me explain a bit further. Of all the things we are taught in scripture about the Holy Spirit, we must never forget that Jesus promises this Spirit as the source of power from which we will live as his witnesses. As Justo González writes “[this] power has been given to us, not just so that we may enjoy it in our own lives, but above all so that we may be witnesses to Jesus and to God’s reign” (Acts: The Gospel of the Spirit, p. 22).
This is vitally important and I do not think the importance can be stressed enough. If Christians are living by the power of the Holy Spirit then we will be bearing witness for God’s reign through the crucified and resurrected Jesus who has now ascended to the throne as the King of Kings, Lord of Lords. If we are not convinced yet, read what the Holy Spirit empowers the church to do throughout the rest of Acts. Those Christians were not bearing witness to the national aspirations of Israel.
Now let’s get sober about this… The Holy Spirit is not empowering us to bear witness to all things American. So when the spirit of Americanism continues to poor out from us, we are failing to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us.
Don’t misunderstand me. This has nothing to do with whether or not Christians should vote or work for the government in some capacity. Nor is this a call to become protesters of America. What I am getting at is nationalism that has nearly eclipsed our witness that makes us distinctly Christian, the life that proclaims Jesus as Lord in word and deed. As American Christians, we are not called to be anti-American, we’re just called to be pro-mission ‒ witnesses of Jesus Christ rather than our nation.
As I stated in yesterday’s post, I have had more requests in my ministry to teach on the Holy Spirit than any other subject. So my question is this: Do we really want the Holy Spirit to empower us and lead us in life?
If our answer is “no” then we have an entirely different problem on our hands. But my assumption is that every Christian says, “Yes, I want the Holy Spirit to empower me and lead me in life.” Very good! Now let’s remember…the Holy Spirit wants to empower us to be courageous witnesses of Jesus Christ (period).