Every Christian should know what the Great Commission is. And pretty much everyone in the U.S. probably at least heard of separation of church and state. So when someone receives an award for “Selfless and Steadfast Service in the Lord’s Vineyard” I expect them to understand the relationship between the Great Commission and the idea of separation of church and state.
Instead, we read a headline like the one of foxnews.com:
Barr says ‘notion’ of separation of church and state misunderstood because of ‘militant secularists’
If Barr’s statement is true, then he must be a militant secularist. Why? Because I believe he doesn’t understand the notion of separation of church and state. And his misunderstanding is compounded by his apparent lack of understanding of the Great Commission.
Before getting into the article, let’s look at the U.S. Constitution and the Bible. That’ll put us on the same page of the same book about both those concepts.
Separation of church and state
What does the U.S. Constitution say about the separation of church and state? Technically, nothing.
It’s the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution that sort of says something related to the separation of church and state. If we look for those actual words, they aren’t there either. So here’s the third amendment.
Article the third… Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It’s the one religion, free speech, press, people assembling and asking the government for solutions to grievances. Too many people like to pick their favorite one or two – and then ignore the rest. But that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. The problem is, especially these days, those rights tend to conflict with each other.
Is it really possible to not make any law that in no way prohibits the free exercise of every religion that exists? Where is the line between establishing a religion, and supporting that religion? Or, on the other hand, opposing that religion? And is it possible to never write a law that neither supports nor opposes the beliefs of every possible religion? We’ll get to the answers later.
Keep in mind as we go along, all of this does have an impact on the Great Commission. How, or even if, it gets done.
The Great Commission
So here’s what Jesus said, in what Christians call the Great Commission. You see, those words aren’t actually in the Bible either. But just like the words in the third amendment to the Constitution, they do portray something of what is said in both passages.
Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So let’s look at that.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Yes, all authority has in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. That’s a basic belief of Christianity.
However, with apologies to some, Jesus has not (yet) exercised all of that authority. What do I mean by that? If Jesus had all authority on earth and in Heaven, would Satan and evil be present here on earth? For example, consider something Jesus said to His disciples. I include the entire passage, but for this topic, pay attention to the last paragraph, especially verse 30.
Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Jn 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Jn 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.”
Now – look again at verse 30:
Jn 14:30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, …
The prince of this world. That’s Satan. And Satan has no hold on Jesus. However, Satan does have some hold on us. True, as we read in Job, Satan must get permission from God for whatever He’s going to do. But he is allowed to do things. He does tempt us. Why that’s the case is beyond the scope of what we’re going here. In fact, it’s something we won’t entirely understand this side of Heaven. But that is part of the basic beliefs of Christianity. And so it should be for every Christian.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Baptizing people from all over the world. That’s what the image at the top is about. And, it’s what too many people believe the Great Commission is about. I should say, too many Christians believe it’s the only thing the Great Commission is about. But it isn’t. There’s more to it. So much more.
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Yes – this is the second part of the Great Commission. You can read much more about this teaching command in The Great Omission from The Great Commission. Baptizing isn’t even the very first thing in the Great Commission. If it is, it’s a blind baptism, where the person being baptized doesn’t understand the first thing about what Jesus taught. And that’s a problem.
But, if teaching stops after baptism, then the new Christian understands only some elementary facets of the newfound Christian faith. Learning is a lifelong process. Transformation from what we were to becoming more like Christ is a life-long journey. For more on that thought, I encourage you to check out Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?
But that’s still not the end of the Great Commission. The remaining portion is also the most important part!
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age
Yes – Jesus is with us. Not physically. Jesus is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that’s in that longer passage I included earlier. Just as Jesus promised, He is with us. Always.
By the way, that’s Jesus saying He would be with His disciples. With us today. With us as we perform the Great Commission.
It was most certainly not Jesus saying the Roman government would be with His disciples. Nor that our government would be with us today.
With that as the backdrop, let’s get into the article.
Has the American public misinterpreted the actual meaning of “separation of church and state”?
Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that he believes the American public has misinterpreted the actual meaning of “separation of church and state” during a speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB).
“Militant secularists have long seized on that slogan as a facile justification for attempting to drive religion from the public square and to exclude religious people from bringing a religious perspective to bear on conversations about the common good,” Barr said during the virtual ceremony that had been postponed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Just to be sure, I am neither a militant nor a secularist. However, I do believe Mr. Barr has misinterpreted the actual meaning of “separation of church and state”. How can I say that? By using his very own words, from the very same sentence.
Militant secularists have long seized on that slogan as a facile justification for attempting to drive religion from the public square and to exclude religious people from bringing a religious perspective to bear on conversations about the common good.
And as I said, this all has a big impact on our desire and ability to perform the Great Commission given to all Christians by Jesus.
The Oxford Dictionary defines facile as:
(especially of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial.
So let’s not be superficial. Let’s get into the complexities. And let’s be comprehensive. About both the separation of church and state and about the Great Commission. And let’s not forget, we do the same with Barr’s statements.
Driving religion from the public square versus Excluding a religious perspective
This is going to get messy. Sorry, it just is.
First of all – let’s ask a question. Who’s religious perspective are we talking about? Christian? Of course, at least with our current administration. Jewish? They at least pretend to do that. Muslim? No way. Just look at the way they even talk about Muslim representatives in Congress. Or the ban on immigration from Muslim countries that was put in place. What about Hindu? Sikh? Buddhism? Even Human Secularism and Atheism are, in many ways, religions. Are they all brought into the public square to always be considered?
What “flavor” of that religion?
Secondly, who’s version of any of the religions that are supported by this government? There are so many Christian denominations. On top of that, there are all the non-denominational churches. They disagree on things. Important things, to them at least. So whose voices are brought to the table?
What does establishment of religion mean?
Yes, I do mean supported. In spite of the third amendment clause about Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Maybe we’d like to think establishing a religion means to initiate it. You know – make a new one? That way, anything done with an already “established” religion is OK.
Sorry, but that’s not what the word means. Really. It’s not. Here’s what it means, in the non-simplistic, complicated sense. It’s from Webster’s dictionary.
Definition of establish
1: to institute (something, such as a law) permanently by enactment or agreement
2: obsolete : SETTLE sense 7
3a: to make firm or stable
3b: to introduce and cause to grow and multiply
establish grass on pasturelands
4a: to bring into existence : FOUND
established a republic
4b: BRING ABOUT, EFFECT
established friendly relations
5a: to put on a firm basis : SET UP
establish his son in business
5b: to put into a favorable position
5c: to gain full recognition or acceptance of
the role established her as a star
6: to make (a church) a national or state institution
7: to put beyond doubt : PROVE
established my innocence
Did you notice definition 5a? 5b? 5c? That’s what is happening right now in this country. And in an odd and inappropriate way, it involves the government stepping in and doing the Great Commission. Not people who are Christians, doing it for God. People who are using our Christian beliefs to, in essence, buy our votes, and do the “great commission” to buy into their version of “Christianity”.
How about definition 6? That’s pretty close to what’s happening here. It’s also one of the reasons why so many Christians fled Europe to come to the “New World”. They wanted to get away from the King’s religion or the Queen’s religion. Now, more and more, we’re getting into the Republican Party’s religion.
Yes, the Republican Party’s religion is some flavor of Christianity. But – here’s a really big question. Does it live up with what Jesus taught while He walked the earth? And the killer portion of the question is yet to come!
Where are we in the question of Driving religion from the public square versus Excluding a religious perspective?
So with all the stuff we looked at, are we really talking about driving religion from the public square? Or are we excluding a religious perspective?
I dare say, the answers to both questions are yes and no.
Yes – we are driving some religions, and flavors of some religions, from the public square. And we’re excluding some religious perspectives from discussion. By the fact that we’re excluding some, we are also including others. So yes – the answer really is both. And as I said, it also tends to hide the Great Commission. Takes it away from the church and subsumes the role as a government function.
The bigger question might be – who’s doing these things? Who’s deciding which religions to support and which to put down? Oddly enough, it’s our President. It’s Barr. And it’s many others in the current administration. Furthermore, one of their major mouthpieces is the very news organization that put out the story. Fox News. This administration and that news organization have proven themselves willing to demonize anyone who disagrees with them.
Is driving religion, even non-Christian religions, from the public square a Christian thing?
Actually, I say it’s not. It was an old Testament thing. Most definitely. But that was the Old Covenant. Christians are under the New covenant. And while we have much to learn from the Old Testament, we also cannot forget that we are New Covenant people.
Do you remember what Jesus told the original twelve disciples when He sent them out?
6:7-11 pp — Mt 10:1, 9-14; Lk 9:1, 3-5
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
Mk 6:8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
Mk 6:12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
Matthew includes much more detail in His account of this event. He includes:
Mt 10:15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
There are two important points there.
First of all, It’s not for us, Christians, to force the Gospel on people. Yes, the Great Commission tells us to go out and spread the good news of Jesus. But If anyone doesn’t want to listen, Jesus tells us to just leave. But why do we just leave? Why don’t we do something more? Like try to force the Gospel on them? Why don’t we try to pass laws to make them obey the teaching in the Bible? It’s because we should know the significance of shaking the dust off our feet! Matthew, the Jewish disciple who included so many things related to the Old Testament, includes what Mark didn’t. It’s about tradition. And about Jewish tradition in particular.
10–11 In Middle Eastern society the expectation of hospitality for visiting teachers is no surprise; they ought to be able to take it for granted. A reasonably extended stay is apparently envisaged.
This is undoubtedly very surprising to us today. Visiting teachers of any religion? Very few go door to door anymore. And those who do are rejected at most doors. I talk to some. Not to be converted to their religion, but to try to teach them of mine.
In any case, I don’t know anyone in this country who expects more than a few minutes of anyone’s time. As for an extended stay? You’ve got to be kidding. Our attention spans are much too short. We are, not without reason, general not trusting enough. And we just don’t spend that much time on religion. Even sermons in the churches we do attend rarely go much past a half hour.
What is surprising is the clear expectation that there will be some τόποι (place or location) (not just single households but whole communities?) where they and their message are not welcome. Even at Nazareth Jesus and his disciples had at first been welcomed, even to the extent of an invitation to teach in the synagogue. But the ἀπιστία (unbelief or unfaithfulness) which followed there is likely to be repeated elsewhere, and in such a case the disciples must be prepared to do what Jesus did at Nazareth, to move on and focus their ministry in places where they will be welcome. (Cf. Lk. 9:51–55 for another example of Jesus’ acting by this principle himself.)
It’s a bit long, but I’m including the entire section referenced above about what Jesus did at Nazareth.
Lk 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
Lk 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
Lk 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
Lk 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Lk 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Lk 4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Lk 4:23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ”
Lk 4:24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Lk 4:28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Do you see what happened at the end? The people wanted to literally kill Jesus! But all He did was walk away.
Do we do that today? Or do we go to the government to get laws passed to force people to do what Jesus taught? Answer: far too often, too many of us go for the legal approach. If not by initiating the laws, then certainly by supporting candidates who will make and enforce the laws we happen to favor from the Bible. But is that really the Christian approach? No! And below we find out more about why shaking the dust off our feet and walking away is the Christian thing to do.
For ἐκτινάσσω τὸν χοῦν (shake off the dust) as a gesture of dissociation cf. Acts 13:51 (compare Acts 18:6). The gesture is more fully described in Lk. 10:10–11. The rabbis shook the dust off their feet when leaving Gentile territory, to avoid carrying its defilement with them.
So part of the reason for shaking off the dust has to do with being defiled. In the Old Testament, it was a literal act, with an associated meaning. In the New Testament, it’s to signify that we are not affected, especially in a negative way, by the beliefs of the people who rejected us. But here’s the thing. When we turn towards the legal system of man’s government to force a behavior consistent with what we perceive to be a Christian belief, are we not also turning away from God? And isn’t that a negative effect on us? Are we not putting man’s laws before God’s teaching?
As painful as it may seem to us, leaving them behind without attempting to force God’s ways on them, this is what Jesus taught, by His own example. Who are we to reject His teaching and do something else?
On top of that, forcing someone to do something against there will does not bring them to love God. If anything, it’s more like to cause them to reject God in an even stronger way.
But there’s more to the act of shaking the dust off our feet.
Such a gesture serves εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς, a phrase which could suggest that it is intended to lead them to a change of heart, but which generally carries the negative overtone of a ‘witness against’ (see above on 1:44), a witness for the prosecution (this implication is explicit in Acts 18:6).
The prosecution, for Christians, isn’t us. It’s not man’s courts either. It’s God. We use the power of the Holy Spirit to do the Great Commission. But when people reject what we say, they aren’t rejecting us. They are rejecting God. As such, He is the One who passes judgment, not us.
A community ‘marked’ in this way as unrepentant (v. 12) will be liable to judgment (note how this gesture in Lk. 10:10–11 is followed immediately by the pronouncement of condemnation on unrepentant towns, vv. 12–16). 1)France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 250). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
And that judgment, of course, is described in Revelation.
Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The Book of Life is the Lamb’s book. Jesus’ Book. It’s up to Jesus to decide who is in it and who isn’t. It’s not up to us.
However, we were warned about what will happen if we decide to judge others.
Mt 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Mt 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It seems obvious that we shouldn’t go there. We shouldn’t judge others. And yet we do. But is it even worse when we use man’s laws to judge others in a situation where we should have used Jesus’ commands to not judge someone at all?
Where are we with – Is driving religion, even non-Christian religions, from the public square a Christian thing?
I dare say, I don’t believe it is. Even when we hate what that other religion stands for and what they believe in. By that time, don’t we view them as our enemy? We do remember what Jesus said about that, don’t we?
Mt 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Oops. We’re supposed to love them. They are even included in the people to whom we’re supposed to reach in the Great Commission. I think that means we’re not supposed to beat them over the head with our Bibles. Jesus never did that. So why do we think we should?
Does the removal of religion cause the problems Barr brought up?
Here’s another portion of the Fox News article I want to look at.
The attorney general said there is a direct correlation between the removal of religion from schools and public spaces,
Is the absence of religion in schools and public spaces the problem? Remember the part about which religions and which flavors of those religions. In the messy and complex version of that statement, Barr is talking about the absence of all religions. In the simple version, which I believe he’s really referring to, it’s the absence of the particular flavor of Christianity that Donald Trump is pushing. And only the parts he wants to pay attention to. The ones he thinks will get him votes. Certainly, by his own words and actions, not the parts about loving everyone and living his life via the examples set by Jesus.
And so, in that non-facile interpretation of what he said – do we all really want anyone to learn Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Wiccan, Buddhism, Secular Humanism, Etc. from some teacher in school? Isn’t learning Christianity something that’s talked about in the Bible? Earlier, I mentioned there are some differences between the Old and New Covenants. But one thing I believe hasn’t changed is talked about in the passage below from Deuteronomy.
Dt 4:1 Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
Do not add or subtract. However, since this was Old Testament and therefore Old Covenant, we must correctly make changes according to what Jesus said. No more and no less.
Dt 4:3 You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today.
This is one example of something that’s changed. God no longer destroys people, in the sense that death is not immediate and punishment, if warranted, is in the next life.
Dt 4:5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
We must also be cognizant of the fact that by “nation”, the Bible doesn’t mean the United States. Or any other country. It’s about the true followers of Jesus, no matter what country we happen to live in, or be from.
Dt 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.
Don’t let Jesus’ teachings slip from our hearts. Or our minds. When we do, we get off the narrow path. And that includes the times when we forget the Great Commission. And when we forget that the Great Commission is for us to do – not the government.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them. This is one of the key points for our discussion today. We aren’t supposed to look to public schools, politicians, government agencies, even the president, to learn about Jesus! We are to learn from the Church. Churches that accurately and lovingly portray what Jesus taught.
And then we are responsible for our families. We aren’t supposed to pass off the single most important responsibility we have, fulfilling the Great Commission, to anyone else when it comes to our families. Yes, we are all supposed to spread the Word to whoever we can. But in the case of families, if the parents are Christian, it’s the responsibility of those parents to teach their children. That includes going to church. But it does not include having the government do it for us.
10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.
As Moses taught the people, we are to teach other people. Remember, Moses wasn’t part of the government. He wasn’t an officer of Pharaoh. He was operating at the request of God and with God’s full support.
So can we, when we do the Great Commission. Remember the last phrase in what Jesus said. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
and the “striking increases in urban violence, drug abuse and broken families.”
Are the increases in urban violence, drug abuse and broken families because of one brand of Christianity being missing from the public square? Is the solution to force that one brand onto people, with the obvious side effect that all others are pushed out? Is it really that simple? Or is this a facile approach to a much larger problem?
Aren’t the problems caused by social issues? Racial bias, which also existed in Jesus’ time. People without enough money to support themselves, which also existed in Jesus’ time. Religious bias, which also existed in Jesus’ time.
Let’s face it, even when Jesus walked the earth, there were the hated Samaritans, poor people, riots by the Jews that were quelled by the Romans, Etc. As we read in Ecclesiastes:
Ecc 1:9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
“Problems like these have fed the rise of an ever more powerful central government, one that increasingly saps individual initiative, coopts civil society, crowds out religious institutions and ultimately reduces citizens to wards of the state,” Barr said.
That statement is just factually wrong. Anyone who knows a little bit of history knows that. Besides which, isn’t that exactly what this government is doing? It’s trying to co-opt our society today with its values. Truthfully, isn’t that pretty much what every government does?
Conclusion – Who’s supposed to do the Great Commission? Christians or the government?
I want to leave you with one final passage. It’s from the Old Testament. It’s God telling the people what will happen if He gives them their own king, as they asked for. As we read it, just think about how much those same words apply today. And realize that it’s not going to be “fixed” until Jesus returns to lead His government.
1Sa 8:1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
1Sa 8:4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
1Sa 8:6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
1Sa 8:10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day. ”
1Sa 8:19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
1Sa 8:21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Everyone go back to his town.”
So what do you think?
Who’s the better leader? God or any human government?
And from that, who do you want to learn about Christianity from? God? Or a human government?
Choose carefully, Our very souls may depend on who or what we choose to be the most important in our lives.
References [ + ]
|1.||France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 250). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.|