Because none of us has advanced very far along the path to maturity our minds are often beset with the questionings aroused by the affairs of this world. To be a citizen of an earthly domain can cause problems to those whose citizenship is in fact a heavenly one.
It is far easier to write and speak about what should be the expression of mature spirituality in daily life than it is to be a living exponent of it, for the greater our knowledge the greater becomes the realisation of our failures.
Living in times such as these it is inevitable that the problems of humanity face us at every turn, and as we associate with our fellow-men in business and social intercourse there are questions which continually arise. The difficulty with most of us is how to adjust our reactions as human beings, products of the day and age, to our inner realisation that we are sons of God.
It is in spirit that we are citizens of a celestial sphere, while in our bodies, and so far as our outward lives are concerned, we are accounted citizens of the world. We live in the world, but our hearts are not in it, and although by spiritual anticipation we are uplifted to a heavenly destiny, our bodies (of the earth, earthy) prevent the single-minded preoccupation with celestial things to which our spirits are disposed.
As members of the human race, we are acutely conscious of its problems and perplexities, and while we hold the key to them all, it is not a key which we can place in the hands of the majority of our fellows, for being untaught they do not understand the combination which releases the lock.
Constituted as we are, it is inevitable that we should form opinions upon the outstanding questions of our day. Indeed, the rejuvenation of the spirit of the mind in the believer should sharpen his mental faculties to a more acute mental perception than that of the majority. Yet, when we express opinions upon these things we must remember to make mental reservations--as Paul would have said "I speak as a man!"
Knowing from the Scriptures the purposes of God, the earnest humanitarianism of some of our fellows makes us some what cynical, so that if we join in the discussion of national and international questions a voice within us is more apt to say "I speak as a fool." Indeed, again, speaking as a man and speaking as a fool are nearly synonymous terms, in the light of Divine revelation. But world problems touch our daily lives so closely that it is not easy always to view them with the proper spirit of detachment which becomes us.
We are instinctively repelled, for instance, by the doctrines of Fascism and Communism, those noxious products of distorted minds which seek to deify either the race or the state, but on the other hand how can we be champions of democracy when we know that the only just and satisfactory government of man will be that of Theocracy?
So many adhere to the popular theological conception that "Jesus came to found a religion which will one day spread over the whole world." We know that He did not, and that the monstrosity known as Christendom will come to an unhappy end. Consequently we may appear hard and unsympathetic in refusing to ally ourselves with those who endeavour so earnestly for the betterment of mankind.
We know that the spirit and the principles of the Sermon on The Mount are ideal for the government of mankind, but we are equally aware that the Lord at that time was not formulating a code of personal and international relationships (" practical politics "if you like) which He intended and expected to be adopted forthwith and acted upon ever since. Those who work for the present acceptance and realisation of these utterances cannot have our co-operation because we know from the Scriptures that in Gods purpose they will not at present be either universally recognised or accepted.
The professing church seems unable to comprehend the fact that, at present, God is not occupied with the world as such, but with a chosen body of believers called out from among both Gentiles and Jews, a joint-body, unique, secret,--a body whose blessing and activities are in spirit and not in flesh.
The time will come when God will enter again into dealings with the nations, but in doing so He will act through the nation of Israel, whose prerogative it is to be the recipients and channel of earthly blessing, even as the members of the joint-body are His chosen celestial representatives. Israel shall rule the nations, and through Israel righteous rule shall be established upon the earth, but the time is not yet, and attempts on the part of the professing church to anticipate its realisation are fore-doomed to failure.
It is probably the nominal churchs preoccupation with things which do not concern it which accounts for its lack of spiritual power; that, and its vast ignorance concerning Gods revelation. The number of those "who mind earthly things" has grown considerably since Pauls day. They are busy in making better a world which cannot be improved by their methods.
There is hardly a denomination which does not include in its "good causes" that of Temperance, despite the fact that there is no Scripture warrant for so doing. The believer should exercise temperance in what he drinks, as in all else he does, but what right have we to dictate to unbelievers in terms of" touch not, taste not? " Why should those who are called to be stewards of Gods secrets spend their time opposing the granting of public-house licences? Let the church mind its own business--it sadly needs minding.
The issues of Peace and War touch us all very closely, and our relation to them, as believers, exercises many minds. Those who are disposed to the things of earth place faith in the so-called United Nations, and cry " Peace, peace" when there is no peace. Can we not have the courage of our conviction that God is operating all things in accord with the counsel of His will? Whatever the chaos here, there is peace where He is, for He sees the end from the beginning, and the hearts of kings and leaders are in His hands "as the watercourses, He turneth them whithersoever He will."
No believer can approve of the beastliness of war, and however much bishops may wriggle there is nothing in the teaching of the so-called New Testament which can give the professing church any grounds for a pro-military policy. But again, there is nothing in the Scriptures which explicitly condemns war as a national policy; in fact, there are instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where war is used as an instrument of Divine policy.
The Christian Pacifist has no grounds for claiming liberty of conscience in this matter, nor can he claim to be in the same position as was Peter when he informed the Sanhedrin that he would obey the voice of God rather than their commands. The voice of God is found in His Word, not in the workings-out of individual consciences.
And as to that, it must again be emphasised that however much help, benefit and instruction we may obtain from the Scriptures as a whole, it is only from Pauls Epistles that we can obtain the teaching upon which we must base our belief and walk. Although the emphasis of Scripture is constantly affirming that Paul is Gods appointed messenger to the nations, bearing them a special and distinct evangel, it would seem that the majority will go anywhere for their information on doctrine except to Paul. The Christian Pacifists say, quite rightly, that war is a wicked and evil thing, and that no believer should take part in it; and furthermore should resist any attempt on the part of authority to force him to do so.
What does Paul say?
"Let every soul be subject to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except under God. Now those who are, are set under God, so that he who is resisting an authority has withstood Gods mandate" (Rom. 13, 12).
Surely this is clear enough? It is not ours to wrestle with flesh and blood; we should obey the authorities, trusting God to order events should we seem to be ordered to go contrary to conscience. The whole of our earthly life is on this basis " For, because of this you are settling taxes also, for they are Gods ministers, perpetuated for this very thing. Be rendering unto all their dues, to whom tax, tax, to whom tribute, tribute, to whom fear, fear, to whom honour, honour.
Does not the realisation of this straightforward teaching simplify most of lifes problems? It is not ours to resist or insist, it is our privilege to know that God rules and over-rules in all affairs, personal, national and international. The Governments and authorities which exist today, evil though many of them are, are still His servants for the carrying out of His purpose, and to them we must give obedience.
If their commands offend the conscience, have we not sufficient confidence in God to be assured that He will over-rule their decisions when necessary? What have we to do, then, with the politics and policies of men? What right have we to prostitute our energies in the arena of earthly things, striving against flesh and blood?
Our citizenship is in the Heavens, from whence we expect our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change these bodies of our humiliation, which are subject to the decrees of human authority, and make them fit vehicles of spirits which possess celestial citizenship. He will, indeed, make them like His Glorious Body, by the effectual working of that power which enables Him to subject even the entire universe unto Himself.
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