“Our American way of life” is a phrase constantly heard these days. It is a good phrase, and to many sincere and honest persons it means liberty of conscience, freedom of individual enterprise and the right to worship God after the dictates of our own conscience; it means the rule of law rather than the rule of tyrants; it means a minimum of interference from the state and a maximum of liberty for the individual citizen.
To millions of others, however, it means little more than the right to sin to their heart’s content without molestation by the civil authorities. The Constitution may be, as Gladstone said it was, the noblest document ever struck off the mind of man. But we must remember that there are countless thousands of Americans who use it merely as a place to hide when they are caught in some act of iniquity.
Liberty as used by the American founding fathers meant freedom to do good; many today conceive it to do evil, and they work it for all the traffic will bear.
For this reason we must not identify the gospel with any political system, nor make Christianity to be synonymous with any form of government, however noble. Christ stands alone, above, and outside every ideology devised by man. He does not join any of our parties nor take sides with any of our great men except as they may come over on His side and try to follow Him in righteousness and true holiness. Then He is for them, but only as individuals, never as leaders of some political faction.
The true Christian will be loyal to his country and obedient to those in authority, but he will never fall into the error of confusing his own national culture with Christianity. Christianity is bigger than any country, loftier than any civilization, broader than any human ideology.
It may shock some people to be told that Christ was not an American. Nor was He a Jew merely. He was borne of the seed of Abraham of the line of David, and his mother was a Jew of the tribe of Judah. Still….His dearest name for himself was “the Son of Man.” He came through the Jewish race, but He came to the human race. He is everyman’s countryman and Everyman’s contemporary. He is building a nation out of all nations and tribes and tongues and peoples. He has no favorites.
So, let’s keep cool and let’s think like Christians.
Originally published in The Alliance Weekly, June 13th 1951