The Christian, for reasons not totally visible to him, is called to walk through the land of an enemy king on his way to the Celestial City. Christ in His high priestly prayer acknowledges the difficulty of this journey and prays not that we can detour, but rather that we can endure. “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”
The kingdoms of the world are under the scepter of Satan (Luke 4:56). Nimrod was the first patriarch to move from ruling his family to becoming ruler of a kingdom. Genesis 10:10 says he was king of Babel (or Babylon), Babel being the Hebrew and Babylon being the Greek translation. His efforts to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” show how he shared Satan’s desire to be like the Most High. The Hebrew verb form of his name, Nimrodh, means “let us revolt.” Thus began the kingdoms of this world.
What is a socialistic government? Many of us live under governments (kingdoms or the state) where the laws are put in place by a democracy (the people) and thus represent the values of the majority. According to Matthew 7:14, Christian values are the values of the few rather than the majority. In the United States, we live under a government where democracy is increasingly enacting laws of socialism. Socialistic governments reject the idea of private property and embrace the concept of holding all property in common ownership in a utopia where all mankind receive equal privilege.
As general society in the United States continues to flee the church of Christ, they find themselves out in the cold with no one to help in time of need. rather than turning back to Christ and His church, they are turning to the state to fill in the gap. What about present day Mennonites? What about me personally? Have I given up the victories of a faithful Christian life so that I can be compatible with the social norms of a socialistic society? We would like to look at present day threats, challenges, and blessings to Christians living under socialistic governments.
Most threats to the Christian life in a socialistic government come from within the church. Unsound views and practices within are more likely to undo us than pressures from a socialistic government. History shows that the church was more often lost by joining the state than by the state persecuting the church. The Mennonites of Europe gave their loyalty to Hitler by writing this letter to the Third Reich: “We Prussian Mennonites, assembled today in the free state of Danzig, feel deep gratitude for the powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy (Mr. Hitler) and promise joyful cooperation (that is our conference) in up building the fatherland through the power of the Gospel. Faithful to the motto of our forefathers, No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.” Hitler replied, “For your loyalty and your readiness to cooperate, I express my sincere thanks.” When German Mennonites went to their conference of 1937, they wore swastikas. This is one example of many that could be given on how a church group can slip from the kingdom of Christ to the kingdom of Satan of its own accord. Isaac Watts got it right when he wrote, “Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?” This song is supported by James 4:4, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Revelation 17 talks of “the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication” It would seem that this refers to the judgment of churches who joined hands with the state and thus lost their status as the betrothed bride of Christ.
Civil Christianity will impact us if we have our ear tuned toward Conservative/Protestant news sources such as WORLD Magazine. “Civil religion follows principles that seem like common sense to fallen man. It focuses on physical life. It is willing to suffer or fight for earthly ideals. Civil religion promotes certain rights or ideals as part of a people’s divine heritage, and it asserts that people should fight to the death for those ideals. Civil religion displaces the authority of God’s Word with the ideals of independence and equality.” Do I consider the United States a righteous nation and Cuba an evil one? If so, I am setting myself up to embrace the idea of just war to protect a “righteous” nation from an evil one. I will also be tempted to make my contribution to reform this “righteous nation” from internal evils. The Bible does not refer to any nation as illegitimate or righteous. Daniel 4:17, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”
Dual citizenship concept
This framework holds that while the church and state are separate, as an individual I can serve God and country in equal capacity. Our apostate Mennonite contemporaries have fallen into this thinking. “We’ve decided that the division between the church and the world is not an unbridgeable chasm. We have become politically engaged, believing that Christians actually live in both kingdoms.” What does God’s Word say about this? Ye cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot have two masters. Also read John 18:36, and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and Matthew 5:38-45. Our view comes out in subtle ways at times. Do I refer to the country where I live as “our nation” or “this nation”? If I am a pilgrim and ambassador here, then how has “this nation” become mine? I must also remember that Jehovah is a jealous God and wants my all. He doesn’t intend to share ownership of me with Satan. He is my Creator! He deserves my sole citizenship! This sole divine ownership also applies to the church. It is Christ’s body.
The old man wants to rebel whenever government laws cross our paths. We know this is wrong, but perhaps the most difficult test comes when we must obey God rather than man. It takes Holy Spirit indwelling to disobey government without an attitude of rebellion. respect must be maintained even in times when we must disobey. This is a test that we have had little experience with, but will probably face more of in the future.
A taking rather then a giving mentality
If we find it easier to default on our financial responsibilities when things get tough, rather than to sacrifice, government welfare will look attractive.
Challenges in practical matters
If our church has registered as 501(c)(3), then we have agreed that “the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.” Is fundamental public policy in harmony with God’s Word? Does the church have Biblical liberty to enter into contract with the state if the contract does not infringe on obedience to the Word? Or does Biblical harmony or lack thereof within a church/state contract make no difference as to whether the church should enter into contract with the state? See 2 Corinthians 6:15-18 and Ephesians 5:7-11. Should we be state registered or unregistered? Our forefathers left Europe so they could have a church free of the state. Do we still have that vision? Is union with the state a good thing if it enables us to accomplish church work more easily, such as traveling as a registered pastor with an internationally registered humanitarian aid group?
State registered schools
“A church or religious organization that operates a private school, whether separately incorporated or operated as part of its overall operations, must file Form 5578 to certify that it does not discriminate based on race or ethnic origin.” While this currently includes only racial, color, national and ethnic origin, sexual nondiscrimination is soon to come. Would the legal status of “home school” perhaps better fit with our convictions then that of “school”? This discussion does not pertain to home schooling versus church schooling. The current “school” status is bringing increasing state control. We already know that many socialistic governments consider children to be part of the “common property” of the state. God says that children are His, and parents are responsible to teach and train them. Education is a testing ground. Who will get the privilege to educate? Those who teach the wisdom of God, or those who teach the knowledge of men? We must continue to be convinced that avoiding accredited education will help to minimize our risk of breaking down separation between the church and state. Accredited education cannot be considered religious and thus is not tax exempt. It should be no surprise to us if the state determines that we discriminate against our children by not providing an education that gives them a chance to integrate into the world. That is exactly what we aim for, though, is it not?
One of the key building blocks of socialistic governments is national healthcare. We are created with a desire to live and are commanded to take good care of our bodies. Promoters of national healthcare share these God given desires with us. However, there are major differences between us that should convince us not to accept national healthcare.
First is divine ownership of the body (1Cor 6:19). The flesh doesn’t like the idea of divine ownership because it involves accountability and submission. It wants to recover from sickness even if the Lord has chosen otherwise. Along with accountability to our Creator come His laws of morality. We must have freedom of conscience to reject immoral medical procedures, such as abortion, euthanasia, immunizations made with fetal tissue, fetal stems cells, etc.
We have a different view of life. Human life is sacred and of equal value. We cannot go along with the idea of prorating the value of life based upon the physical return on investment. We do our best to sustain life regardless if a person is normal or not and regardless how much money we expect they can return. God teaches important spiritual lessons through children with special needs, but the world sees them as useless and unwanted.
We also have a different view of death than the world does. Death to the Christian is the door to eternal life, but for the unsaved it is the door to judgment. This difference in outlook will bring us into conflict with the state in our medical decisions.
Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” It is not consistent to accept money from the government, but then refuse to allow them to make our medical decisions because we don’t agree on moral issues.
The church is called to anoint the sick. We are not promised physical healing, but we are promised spiritual healing and grace. I am not aware of any government healthcare that includes this service, and it would not be right to use it if it did!
The church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has the solution to health problems caused by sin. Socialistic governments do not. Lung cancer from smoking, AIDS from immorality, and bodies abused by angry assaults are examples of such problems.
Child Care and Youth Agency
All of the above differences between the Christian and a socialistic government sharpen when it involves a child. We are thinking especially of the education and healthcare arena. Since a child cannot make his own medical decisions, we can expect that he may be caught in a custody battle between Christian parents and the state. Such custody battles are already taking place between Anabaptist parents and the state. It may be tempting to have our church seek government recognition as a licensed social service provider, but this is the very type of unequal yoke we hope this article will help us to avoid.
We are to save for the time when we have not. We are to provide for our family, and if that fails, the church is to provide. Social Security is a government provided retirement plan that many in our church have chosen to avoid, and we do well to strengthen this position. It comes with all the same pitfalls as government healthcare, and we believe will likely be accepted or rejected with socialistic healthcare as a package.
As the definition of marriage is twisted to mean something other than God’s design, we may likely need to rethink the concept of performing marriage with state sanction. It happened in Europe during the reformation. Marriages performed in the Anabaptist church of that time were not legally recognized. This is the only ordinance of the church that we perform in accordance with state law. If the ordained of our church are asked to perform marriage ceremonies in accordance with state laws on marriage, are we ready and willing to give up the blessing of the state on this church ordinance so that we can exercise a free conscience?
Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747– 1813) says about socialistic governments, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.” History would seem to prove this statement true, and it is tempting to resent the increase in taxes that comes with the increase in socialism. However, we are commanded to give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. What is Caesar’s? According to Christ it is tribute money (Matt 22:19,21) and a throne under Satan (Luke 4:6-7). We are to pay taxes and not seek a throne under Satan so we can control the distribution of tax monies.
Willingness to suffer for our faith is an important attitude that will help us stay loyal to Christ in times of socialistic pressure. Not obstinate, not rebellious but willing to suffer! Is my life pampered and materialistic, or is it broken and disciplined? We know which attitudes prepare the way for victory when loyalties between Christ and state are tested.
Scripture outlines the office of the deacon, and we must keep it! If we start receiving social services from the state, we can expect to lose this office in the church. Liberal Mennonite churches of our day have already experienced this.
A willingness to give and support each other will allow brotherhood aid to work, and we will be blessed.
Brotherhood aid provides more than money. It doesn’t just pay our hospital bill, but provides comfort and emotional support. It also invokes the power of prayer in time of need. Which do we want—a system that provides only money (even that being in question), or God’s plan, where money, love, and prayer are all provided as a package we call brotherhood aid? Brotherhood aid also strengthens the bond of relationships within a church. Most church members will be both the giver and the receiver during the course of their lives, and there are blessings for both. Brotherhood aid is also a privilege because it is a heavenly investment. It pays better dividends than any earthly government and is immune from moth and rust. We are challenged to view brotherhood aid as an investment rather than an expense.
When we are free from efforts to correct the social ills of the nations, we are free from much unrest and travail. We are free to point men of all nations to the One who corrects the heart. Trusting God to direct the nations brings us to peace. He has already outlined the solution to the pride and rebellion of nations, and we are not tasked to do the job.
Nations will punish nations. It is a marvel that God’s plan is to use the kingdoms of Satan to judge the kingdoms of Satan! Read Isaiah 15-19 for details.
Christ will rule King Supreme. The kingdoms of the world will be given to Christ at the end of the age (Rev 11:15).
The saints will judge the world in the future (1Co 6:2).
May we be ambassadors to the country where we live while remaining loyal to our heavenly country so that our Father will not charge us with treason when Christ returns. Only His Kingdom will stand! Only He can take care of us! Will we believe? Will we obey?
~ Manheim, PA