Words for all Christians dealing with governments and concerns for the Nations. Fr Gavin
“But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
The day after Election Day I was in Northern Virginia having breakfast with two older brothers in Christ who have poured much Godly wisdom and encouragement into me over the years. We were trying to absorb the surprise of this Presidential election, the unexpected results, the hopes and the fears expressed on all sides, and the challenges that lie ahead for our nation. But in the midst of that discussion our conversation took a turn to the topic of God’s calling. Both men shared with me a practice they observe daily: to ask in prayer “Lord, what is your Kingdom assignment for me today?”
They reminded me that this is the first priority that Jesus set for you and me, his disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus promises that everything else flows from this, including good government, racial reconciliation, material prosperity for all, clothing, food and other essentials of life… Seek first the Kingdom and ALL these things will be given to you as well.
I want to invite us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to begin at that place of seeking first the Kingdom of God, no matter how we voted in the Presidential election, no matter how we feel today about the change in leadership. IF we are followers of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we ask this same question of the LORD in our prayers at beginning of day: “Lord, what is your Kingdom assignment for me today?” IF this is the first priority that Jesus set for his disciples, the church, shouldn’t we be asking the same question of our churches “LORD, what is your Kingdom assignment for our church today?”
What is “the Kingdom of God”? In The Divine Conspiracy and other works, Dr. Dallas Willard gave a simple but elegant description of what Jesus means when he talks about the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven) in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout his teaching. The Kingdom of God is “The range of God’s effective will-where what God wants done IS done.”
We find the range of God’s effective will in the Bible, God’s divinely revealed and inspired word. You and I can find in the Bible what God wants done in our lives, our communities, our cities and in our nation – in 66 books from Genesis to Revelation, from creation to the fall of humankind to redemption through Jesus Christ to restoration at the last day.
Consider just one picture of the Kingdom of God, in one city (Babylon), in one of those 66 book, in one chapter, from Jeremiah 29:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters…Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers you too will prosper.” (Jer. 29:4-7)
The Kingdom of God is not Republican. It is not Democrat or Libertarian or Green. It is not Right, Alt-Right, Neo-Con, Libertarian or Progressive. The Kingdom of God stands above and over every flawed and sinful human ideology and movement… for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). In light of Romans 3:23, and the reality of original or birth sin (Article 9), we must categorically affirm that where any human ideology or political party departs from God’s divinely revealed and inspired word, on any issue of the day, we must say so, as followers of Jesus Christ and his priorities and values.
Sometimes this will mean enthusiastically supporting candidates who consciously embrace and promote Biblical values. Other times it will mean choosing the lesser of two evils as we cast our votes. At all times it will mean praying for those in authority- however we may think of them-“for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim. 2:2-3) We should be praying earnestly for our leaders to seek God and listen to him! We should pray for their health and safety (see Ezra 6:10), and that they would execute justice (Romans 13:3-4; I Pet. 2:14). We should pray they would follow the Lord’s ways and repent if they don’t. Consider the example of King Manasseh in 2 Chron. 33:1-20, a deplorably evil leader who repented and whom God then used to restore what he had ruined. We should pray that they would govern with wisdom for the welfare of the city (Jer. 29:7) rather than for personal gain. We should pray that God would exercise the range of his effective will through those in authority-regardless of their willingness to be used by Him. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a river wherever he pleases.” Are we praying that the LORD would supernaturally change the hearts of those in authority?
There’s much more for us to do together with other followers of Jesus Christ as we move ahead. But prayer is a good place to begin. Here at the American Anglican Council, we are working with other Christians in The Common Ground Christian Network to develop resources that we can share among all our churches: resources that will proclaim the Biblical basis for human dignity. In so doing, we will engage our culture with a competing vision for human flourishing-one that finds its origins in God’s creative intent rather than the politics of race, class, sexual orientation or gender identity. Why? “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) Until He comes, we reaffirm our identity in Christ (Eph. 1: 3-14) and our calling as peacemakers in Christ’s name (Eph. 2: 13-22) as we recommit our churches to seeking first the Kingdom of God.
What might that look like? Let me close with a quote from Russell Moore in Onward: Engaging the culture without losing the Gospel (2015):
“We seek the Kingdom of God before everything else. We connect that kingdom agenda to the culture around us, both by speaking it to the world and by showing it in our churches. As we do so, we remember our mission to oppose demons, not to demonize opponents. As we advocate for human dignity, for religious liberty, for family stability, let’s do so with a prophetic word that turns everything upside down.”
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President and CEO of the American Anglican Council.