“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'” – Isaiah 29:13
As the Christian Church in America (and throughout the West) struggles to boldly stand for the wisdom of God’s law and the transforming power of Christ to change lives, the picture above seeks to illustrate what might be one of the primary problems with Christianity in America today. We honor our Lord with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him. And our worship is only made up of rules taught by men.
Because in case you didn’t notice in the picture above, the flag representing the Kingdom of God is actually placed in a place of submission to a flag representing a human kingdom…almost as if to suggest that the kingdom of man is given greater honor over the Kingdom of God. While we’re sure this was merely an effort to comply with flag codes on the part of church leadership, the significance of displaying a flag representing God’s Kingdom in this way, and the message it inadvertently sends, must have been missed by the people who raised it. But the proper respect and honor for our Lord in our lives is something we can’t afford to overlook. We’re all guilty of it. Whether it be an obvious outward sign, or a more hidden inner rejection of the Lord that only we know about – standing for the Lord’s Truth (the Kingdom of God) isn’t always easy, or convenient in the kingdoms of man.
It’s ironic that while many human kingdoms are working to remove God from just about everything, many Christians seem to be inviting more and more of man’s systems into their own lives. Instead of standing as beacons of truth and living with a consistent Biblical worldview, they’re participating in all manner of state-run programs while angrily defending the “right” to send their children to be educated in government schools. All while our churches are too busy worrying about losing their tax exempt status to inform us how the Bible should be applied to all areas of our lives. This results in ineffective Christians that are conformed to the culture instead of working to reform the culture.
What is important to recognize is that rights and law aren’t simply pulled out of thin air. They are rooted in the existence of a Supreme Law-Giver, as Sir William Blackstone noted (read more from this Axiom resource on William Blackstone). And in keeping with Blackstone’s teachings about law, many early American leaders knew it was foolish to suggest that a government could properly govern without being informed by Christianity. This of course isn’t advocating a Church State, but merely an acknowledgement that no human system will survive very long without a moral, self-governing people. This need for moral people in our communities is why early American leaders emphasized the importance of the Christian Church as an institution in society – one that should not be handicapped by the State.
Larry Beane in On Flags in the Sanctuary writes that, “In a sense, the church is like a ship or an embassy that flies under its own flag. Churches, though located in the U.S. or Canada or Russia or Ethiopia – are actually missions or consulates or embassies of heaven. The sovereign of the Church is not the king or the queen or the president – but the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, He who said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ He who rebuffed Satan’s temptations to give Him all of the kingdoms of the world.”
And in Should Churches Display the American Flag?, Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho states, “The New Testament is all about this principle. Where customs interfere with transnational fellowship, those customs must give way (Acts 15:29). Placing a flag in a sanctuary has many possible implications. It could convey the idea that we claim some sort of ‘favored nation’ status. It could imply we believe that the claims of Caesar extend into every space, including sacred spaces. It could imply that our version of Christianity is similar to some kind of syncretistic ‘God and country’ religion, where patriotism and religion are one and the same.”
Thoughts on american christians and statism, flag displays in the church, or how Christians might better serve the Lord and their communities? Let us know by leaving us a comment!