The Shining City on a Hill: America?
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2011 May 31
Most American Christians believe that America has a special place in God's heart.
"God and Country" are inseparable in the minds of many to the point that to be a good Christian is to be a good American and vice versa.
Few days go by that I don't hear a Christian pastor or conservative commentator refer to
America as the "city on a hill" that holds forth truth and righteousness. One well-known Christian ministry is quite bold to say that Christians should work for an America that’s a “city on a hill” that will draw all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ. America was that “shining city” in the past and will be again. They assert that America will teach the nations to subdue the earth for the advance of God’s kingdom. Now, that resonates in our hearts. But is it right?
As the Lord Jesus was talking to His disciples He said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). Was He referring to America or any other country for that matter? No. He was talking to them as the church: His people. Christians are salt and light; the church is a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Its message and work will influence people. It’s the church comprised of individual Christians that will reach people with the message of salvation in Christ: not any geo-political state.
God declares that all nations will flow to the Lord’s house which is that city on a hill: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isa. 2:2). That’s why the Lord Jesus Himself gave us the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:18f).
As individuals from every nation (people group) come to Christ, the promise of God is being fulfilled. This promise and commission is not given to America but to God's people: the church.
Should American Christians work for a better America by promoting the ways of God?
Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean that America can be the city on a hill Jesus was talking about. No matter how many Christians live in America or how much America is influenced by Christians and their witness, the church and America will always be two different things.
Language is important. This issue is no mere quibble over words. Despite the mistaken rhetoric of so many of us, America will not draw all nations to Christ. Jesus said He would draw all nations to Himself (Jn. 12:32). We can say He does that through the gospel (Rom. 1:16) by the church (Matt. 28:18f; Eph. 3:10). But that is a very different thing than saying America does that. It is not the role of America to subdue the earth for the advance of God’s kingdom. The fact is that all earthly kingdoms are rivals to the kingdom of God and will one day be destroyed (Dan. 2:44). God’s kingdom is the only one that will last forever. Our hope is in Christ and His kingdom as opposed to any earthly kingdom.
We must learn to think biblically about “God and Country" and the connection between the two. We must debunk the popular notions that America is a Christian nation (the church is the only Christian nation according to the Scriptures); or that America is the New Israel; or that America will one day establish a Christian government and be the light of the world; or that to be a good Christian is to be a good American. We have to do that not because we hate America but because we love Christ. And, we do that because our gospel is Christ, not America. We don't want to promote idolatry. You can be a good.
Christian anywhere in the world and love your country of origin. The issue is not what country we love but whether we truly love Christ.
The Scriptures give us light on this issue; they give us clarification on the different roles of government, the church, and individual citizens within a nation. When we get those roles straight and follow through, the church truly will be the city on a hill.
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about the role of Government, the role of the church, and the role of the market . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Please visit http://www.governmentcurrentevents.com