Our higher calling: Jesus’ rival nation

Dec 8, 2017 by

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I was recently exploring how different institutions use vision statements to appeal to their audience. One statement stood out to me from a college that professes Christianity in New York: “We exist to graduate students who will go on to positions of leadership in our strategic national institutions: government, business, media, law, education, and the church.” It is shocking how these words present the church as an equal and mutually exclusive choice among institutions for Christians. We must not capitulate to the notion that being guardians and shepherds of Jesus’ nation which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28) is an optional or secondary calling.

For those who believe the doctrine of two kingdoms, it is easy to see flaws in a Christian vision statement that mixes the nations of this world with the kingdom of God. Despite the prevalent proclamation of Jesus’ kingdom throughout the New Testament, many Christians accept that followers of Jesus can serve in places that require some level of biblical compromise.

My story is a showcase of this biblical neglect. Thirteen months ago, I was under oath to the U.S. Constitution in the military when biblical truths fell on me like a ton of bricks. By God’s grace, I have since submitted to Jesus’ kingdom and have been in training to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:12). But the question still looms for me as a humble 25-year old: what now? I remember listening to David Bercot’s teaching on the doctrine of the two kingdoms and coming across Origen’s words:

We recognize in each state [that is in each country] the existence of another national organization that was founded by the Word of God. And we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over churches… It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices. Rather it is so they may reserve themselves for a more divine and necessary service in the church of God — for the salvation of men.

Origen lays out a vision statement for Christians that elevates service in the church of God to its divine level for the salvation of men. In my case it is easy to see that my vision was off, but could it be that there are more subtle places where Christians can still get distracted? Does the salvation of men keep us up at night? Is the church our passion?

There are shiny objects all around us. Government can be a distraction for those who seek power, business for those who chase wealth, media for those who crave attention, law for those who demand justice, and education for those who want status. Just because I have accepted the doctrine of two kingdoms does not mean I am not susceptible to go down other rabbit trails. The enemy gains victories when man chases the world and leaves behind the church. Jesus’ nation is closer to triumph when man submits to the church and confronts the earth with its saltiness and captivates it with its light (Matt. 5:13-16). Amid all the distractions, we dare not put the church as an option at the end of our own vision statements, but rather learn from the cloud of witnesses before us and raise the church to its rightful position.

In the past year, I have had the honor of learning about the persecuted churches of history, and one name that is inescapable for me today is Michael Sattler. He stood as a guardian and shepherd of Jesus’ nation, was mighty in word, and bled and died for the church beside his wife. You can read more about Sattler here or watch a short video summary about him here. In Sattler, we see a man who refused biblical compromise while diligently leveraging his life for the sake of the Messiah and his flock: for the salvation of men. Can we say the same?

We do not have to make the church a mutually exclusive choice, but rather everything we do should be for the sake of this rival nation Jesus founded. There is no room for biblical compromise in things like government oaths, taking people to court and conforming to the world. But there is no need to present a false choice between the church and careers, trades or education like the college in New York’s vision statement. We exist as bondservants of Christ and should labor and toil night and day to proclaim Jesus’ kingship to others as Paul, Silvanus and Timothy did for the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:9). May we reserve ourselves for the higher calling in all we do with Scripture as our guide and Christ as our foundation.

The reason I was interested in college vision statements is because I now seek to serve Christ through being a part of Sattler College. This new college aims to help raise an army to bring forth Christ’s kingdom to all nations. Sattler College’s vision is to “train graduates to be a city on a hill: a shining light in greater Boston and the nations.” Sattler College is now accepting applications from potential students, and the deadline for application is Jan. 15, 2018.

Zack Johnson is director of operations at Sattler College in Boston, Mass., and fellowships with Followers of the Way in the Boston area. This post originally appeared at dwightgingrich.com.

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  • Rainer Moeller

    First, contrary to Origen, we nowadays should distinguish between “nation” and “state”. There is yet some “American state nationalism”, but on the whole the U.S. (and most Western states) are loosely connected alliances between different ethnic nations.
    Secondly, I agree with the idea that there’s a rivality between the Christian nation and other nations, but let it be a friendly rivality! We are not “better” than the other nations – but we are less easily accessible than others, and for a lot of people unaccessible.

  • Berry Friesen

    Thank you, MWR, for publishing this essay. It reflects a truly Anabaptist understanding of the church of Messiah Jesus and stands in marked contrast to the emerging consensus among progressive Mennonites that fixing “america” is our mission.

    I do accept Rainer’s encouragement to be a “friendly rival;” is that not part of what Jesus taught when he asked us to ove our enemies? And yes, Rainer’s point about accessibility is also well-taken.

    I do not like Johnson’s choice of metaphor with his “raise up an army” and the “city on a hill” metaphor is easily misunderstood among us living here in the USA, saturated as it is by imperialist purposes and goals. But “witness” is certainly the high calling of those who have chosen to follow Jesus, and I pray God’s blessing on Sattler College as it lives out that calling.