An important point was raised in response to my previous post that is worth taking the time to discuss further. Although I didn’t explicitly state it in my previous post, I do believe it is appropriate to compare America with the Roman empire rather than ancient Israel. America is to Rome as the people of God are to Israel. Israel, that is, the people of God, ought to be compared with Israel.
We see in Romans chapters 9-11 that not all Israel is Israel. “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6). It is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants (9:8). The true Israel are all those whom the Father has given to the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, Jesus the Christ. Jew and Gentile alike join the true Israel when they are united to Christ. These are the people of God. No one nation can lay claim to a contemporary comparison with Israel.
With this background in mind I pointed out in my previous post that we don’t see Jesus confronting Rome over the morality of the empire. The world is going to act like the world. Jesus confronted God’s covenant people, sometimes in a very dramatic fashion. Jesus followed in the tradition of the prophets who were charged with calling the covenant people back to God. There was a covenant relationship which established an implicit agreement and expectation that the prophet would call God’s people to account.
Despite the best and purest of intentions, no nation, including America, is the Israel of God or should even be compared with ancient Israel. There are covenant people today, however, and it is those who have entered into the new covenant by the blood of Christ. The people of God lead in love, as people commented on my previous post, and cleave unto that which is good and abhor that which is evil. But Paul is exhorting committed followers of Jesus Christ to live in this manner.
Christians season and preserve the world (salt) as we lead in love. We invite the world to experience the grace and mercy of God and to respond in faith. We want the people of the world to become people of God. We don’t merely want them to adopt the morality of the people of God whether it’s by choice or by the force of law.
I do not want to force an arbitrary distinction between how Christians act in public and private either (as those who left comments suggested). But I also do not want to treat America as a new Israel. America is not God’s chosen people. America is “the world” and has always belonged to the realm of the world (John 15:18-25). The people of God are citizens of America just as they are citizens of nations all throughout the earth. There are Christians in America but there is not a Christian America to call people to return to.
America should not be compared to ancient Israel or seen as a modern-day Israel. The Roman empire would, indeed, be the better analogy. The church is the church and the world is the world. We may believe that America is a pretty great version of the world but that doesn’t make it “Christian.”
If we didn’t consider America to be a Christian nation perhaps we would find a renewed sense of urgency and clarity of purpose as we engage America as missionaries, ambassadors, and pilgrims passing through.