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What’s in the name?

 The Christian Federalist #7

All hail the power of Jesus Name! Let angels prostrate fall. (Traditional Christian Hymn)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

…and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.  And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. (Mark 13:9)

…and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sister or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake (Matthew 24:9)

You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of you head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:17)

Contrary to the rose garden promises some preachers portray to make themselves popular, Christ did not portray the Christian calling as a rose petal life. He made clear that after the Gospel is preached to all nations, people who live in witness of his name would face trials and tribulations, including betrayals that plumb the greatest imaginable depths of human anguish. The willingness to endure all, in Christ’s name and for his sake, is the token by which Christ will recognize himself in those who are his true disciples. It is the wedding garment that will speak for us in answer to the King, when the wedding hall is filled with sundry guests in the Kingdom of heaven.

We can say if we like that this is spoken of in the context of the end of days. But when is that? Or rather, when are we to begin accepting the hardships those days are fated to bring? Christ is pretty clear about the answer:

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake­­­­—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:32-36)

And similarly he says:

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Luke 12:35-40)

Obviously it is not for us to calculate, so that we may cling to the world’s goods until the last minute of the day and hour when we will be called to bear witness to the truth. At every moment of every day we must be dressed and ready, bearing what we are called to bear, here and now, in the name and for the sake of Christ.

For Christian citizens of the United States, what is that calling in the here and now? Christ says that we are to stand before governors and kings for his sake, to bear witness before them. But where is the king in America?  In America the governors are chosen by the people, in their respective States.  Where there are governors, it is the king who chooses them.  So it is the people of the United States who serve as king in America,  the same people in whose voice the Constitution speaks, pronouncing the  Supreme Law of the Land. Choosing the governors, pronouncing the law, establishing the form and powers of the government- in America it is the people of the United States who do all these kingly tasks.

As Christians in America therefore, how can we bear witness to the King if we refuse to stand,  in Christ’s name and for the His sake, before the people of the United States in their sovereign capacity? Americans form political parties precisely in order to set before their fellow citizens candidates to represent their testimony about the condition of the nation and its affairs, and the priorities, laws and policies best suited to care for them.  Whatever the consequences we must suffer for doing so, doesn’t Christ’s command to bear true witness before governors and kings require that we endure all to stand for the power of His name in the arena that in our time and country constitutes the council chamber and judgment seat of the King? The political process is the means whereby the people of the United States organize themselves for action in order to fulfill the kingly obligations of their sovereign power. On account of those obligations they are called periodically to determine and pronounce such decisions as are required to exercise their God-endowed right of self-government. In light of the responsibility this right entails, Christian Americans are called to bear true witness as members of the sovereign body of the people.  They are answerable to God and Jesus Christ for the use they make of  their share in the exercise of sovereign power which God has entrusted to the people. And they are called to give testimony, in the name and for the sake of Christ, as true witnesses before the sovereign body of the people, which is, as it were, the body of the King in these United States.

Has the time yet come when some Christians citizens will admit that the the contemporary tragedy of America’s political life is due entirely to the fact that America’s Christian citizens shamefully refuse to carry out their political vocation?  Has the time yet come when some will let their Father God rebuke and overcome their shame?  Has the time yet come when they will boldly raise a Christian standard round which to rally all who still adhere to America’s founding creed?

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