The gospel and politics

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Jesus gave His disciples the task of proclaiming the Gospel in all the world to all people. The Apostles went and preached Christ and Him crucified. The message of forgiveness of sins in Christ is the heart and core of the Gospel.

Jesus did not send His disciples into the world in order to correct the failings of society. Taking care of matters pertaining to this world is not the task of the Church. This task belongs to the State. The Church and society are two different things. All people are part of society. Only those who wre baptized and believed in Christ were actual members of the congregations described in the Bible. In the Bible there is not a single instance of the Church trying to pressure society to change. Neither is there an example of the Church submitting to the demands of society or civil authorities when the teachings or the confession of a congregation were involved.

The task of the Gospel is to bring a person into communion with God. The Gospel cleanses the heart of sin through forgiveness. To a heart like this God reveals His will, with the result that a person loves and serves his neighbor. He loves his neighbor because he loves God. The Church can naturally expect such love and service only from its members, who believe. Society cannot be approached by the same motive, but must be governed by law.

A Christian is a member of two kingdomes: of God's Kingdom of grace and of an earthly kingdom. His responsibility is to try to improve society for the sake of God and his conscience. But it is important that he knows by what authority he does this. An individual Christian may engage in politics as a citizen and member of society but not on the basis of his membership in a congregation. Politics is not a matter for the Church. For engaging in politics society has its own means of operation. Through these means Christians try to promote decisions and laws that are morally acceptable and beneficial to society.

It is not possible to govern society by God's Word because God has not given His Word to society. Laws and the sword have been given to the State. Both belivers and unbelievers can be governed by these means. To the Church God has given only the Word and the Sacraments. In matters pertaining to faith believers can be governed by these means.

What shall we say then about dialog between State and Church? Should we as a church body engage in dialog with the State on issues such as religious freedom and ethics? Did not Jesus speak to Pontius Pilate of two Kingdoms (John 20:33-37), and did not the Apostle Paul testify of Christ to Felix (Acts 24:24,25)? In certain crucial matters such as the abortion issue we may, because of love, also ask the State to listen to our testimony (Esther 4:11; 5:1,2). We must always keep the principles in mind, but we must not make them militate against love, which is the content of all law and order.