I live in Canada. Canada and the United States are democratic countries. A democracy is “a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament.” . In a democracy the people have the power. Or at least that’s what’s supposed to happen.
Freedom to believe
One of the fundamental parameters of a democracy is the right to live a life that follows one’s convictions and beliefs. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are core to the fabric of our democratic nations. This gives all people, regardless of race, religion or gender a right to co-exist peacefully without fear that their beliefs will bring harm to them.
The church is very different
The church, on the other hand, is NOT a democracy. The church is governed by one Head, the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22; 5:23), and in each location the Holy Spirit chooses a group of men to lead and “oversee” the spiritual direction of that local gathering (Acts 20:28). Is it perfect? Well no, because as you can see, men are involved so it will never be perfect.
The clash of concepts
The dilemma comes when the church, which is NOT a democracy, exists in a nation that IS a democracy. How does the church uphold a democracy that would ensure their right to follow the teachings of the Bible while at the same time grant rights to those who contradict the Scriptures?
There are really just three options.
- Abandon democracy and bring in a system that would enforce biblical teachings. This is akin to a dictatorship or theocracy as in the days of the Old Testament. There are countries that operate on this basis.
- Try to maintain a democracy by fighting for the Bible’s views while denying basic rights to others who disagree (or are not even believers at all). In other words, we want what we want but we are not willing to give others what they want because it goes against the Bible.
- Recognize the rights that a democracy brings to all people, including those who oppose the Bible, and live out Christ as He would live, demonstrating not the judgment of God, but the salvation he offers.
Ok I might have tipped my hand here but I believe #3 is the only option for the church. In a current day of national strife and discontent this topic is vital to maintaining the integrity of the gospel.
A better focus
Instead of trying to legislate morality on those who oppose the Bible, the church’s mandate should be to shine the light of Christ to them. The Lord was passionate about the souls of men and women and compassionate in the way he presented himself to them.
A new attitude towards sinners
As I look at the life of the Lord Jesus (he is the only example we need to follow), what I see is that he reached out to sinners with grace, mercy and love. He then tells the disciples to carry on his mission to the world.
If we spent the same amount of time and passion reaching the lost as we did arguing and complaining about the government and tearing down those in office that we don’t like, it would radically change our lives, assemblies and communities.
A change in me
Our democratic nations (and the world) need to see a church who cares more about loving them than it does about condemning them. The church needs to see their democratic nations as fields ready for harvest. The USA and Canada need the gospel, not a Christian government. The USA and Canada need Christ, not a man or woman in office who will enforce the Bible’s views.
Can the church exist in a democratic country? Absolutely. But she will only be effective for Christ when she recognizes her role is to love as Christ loved and seek out the lost to give them hope amidst the darkness of their lives.