The Church Militant Lives in the Kingdom of the Left

The Church Militant lives in the Kingdom of the Left. That is, the Church of Christ on earth, consisting of all who believe and trust that He is their Savior, exists within the framework of secular and worldly laws and rulers that encompass life on earth. Christians live beside non-Christians, under the same laws.

Individually, Christians have as much interest in laws and justice as everyone else does. The mission of the Church is different. It revolves around the message of the Gospel. When we believe that message, that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, gave His perfect life upon the cross as the sole, sufficient payment for the guilt of the whole world, then God has made us members of the Church, and we possess all of His gifts. On the other hand, the faith that receives this greatest of all gifts in a completely passive way, does not remain passive in our life as Christians.

Christian faith must be active, and that activity takes place in the Kingdom of the Left, within that framework of laws and justice that defines civil society. The activity of our faith is directed by a conscience informed by Holy Scripture. That’s one of the reasons we teach the Ten Commandments in our catechesis: to inform and guide our actions of faith.

When we study the Ten Commandments, they teach us that the Kingdom of the Left — our government — exists as a gift from God, having certain responsibilities that represent His blessings upon us when they are fulfilled. For example, the Fourth Commandment describes not only our responsibility to figures of authority, but implies that they exist to serve our well-being. The Fifth Commandment shows that human life is to be protected, even by our government, when it is not fulfilling its greater responsibility in the Fourth Commandment. The Sixth Commandment reveals that God would also have government protect and encourage lifelong marriage, obviously between one man and one woman. That relationship provides the context for the basic meaning of the Fourth Commandment, “your father and your mother,” so that the institution of marriage is fundamental to civil society itself. The Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Commandments show that God would have government enforce the respect of private property, which is the fruit of our labor. The Eighth shows that God hold government responsible for protecting the good name of its citizens.

God blesses every citizen, Christian or not, when government fulfills these responsibilities. What’s more, Christians are then better able to live our their active faith in love toward their neighbors. Yet before any of those commandments, God commanded that we have only one God, and that we sanctify His name and His Word in their proper and daily uses. If this is forbidden or suppressed in the Kingdom of the Left, then Christians must disobey the errant earthly authority in order to obey the greater authority of God. Certainly, this will result in hardship or even death, especially when the earthly authority is not interested in justice or the other responsibilities that God has given it. It is for that reason that the Bill of Rights is such a blessing to the Church, in particular the First Amendment, guaranteeing the freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion. Of slightly less interest to Christians is the Second and subsequent amendments, which also exist to provide citizens the means to protect their individual freedoms in the rest.

These days, people seem more concerned about the “establishment clause” of the first amendment, prohibiting the government from establishing a national religion — or a state religion, as the Supreme Court has further interpreted it. However, just as important as the “establishment clause” is the “free exercise clause,” which forbids the national (or state) government from prohibiting the free exercise of an individual’s religion. The clause assumes that the religion in question does not threaten the freedoms of other citizens. Especially in this area, Christians in the Church Militant should be concerned and involved in the American government, because it applies directly to the activity and scruples of faith.

For an application of this concern, see Gene Edward Veith’s blog post about how the federal Equal Opportunity Commission is requiring Roman Catholic institutions to pay for birth control in their health insurance plans. You may be tempted to consider it “someone else’s problem” if you’re not Roman Catholic, but that would be unwise. A government willing to ignore the free exercise clause in the case of Roman Catholics will not hesitate to ignore it in the case of Lutherans, Reformed, Evangelicals, Orthodox, etc.

2 thoughts on “The Church Militant Lives in the Kingdom of the Left

  1. Ok, Jesse, I’m going to try to engage my brain by asking you a few questions.

    Firstly, perhaps I’ve heard the phrase before, but please define and give a little background for the phrase “the kingdom of the left.” I think you define it in the fourth paragraph when you have the words “our government” within the dashes. But please explain it further.

    You also make some assumptions in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph that I’m not sure I agree with. And you then carry those assumptions into the rest of the paragraph to explain yourself. You say, “When we study the Ten Commandments, they teach us that the Kingdom of the Left — our government — exists as a gift from God, having certain responsibilities that represent His blessings upon us when they are fulfilled.” When I study the Ten Commandments, it is as a guide, rule and mirror for my own life. I think it’s in the worldly philosophers of perhaps the 17th and 18th centuries where we find the commandments used the way you are trying to use them.

    Maybe I’m being too grammatically nit-picky here, but you say, firstly, that the commandments teach us that our government exists as a gift from God. Ok, I agree that government is a gift from God, but where do the commandments say this. I guess I can stretch my imagination to see that when the fourth commandment tells us that things will be well with us if we honor our fathers and mothers that maybe, perhaps, some could infer that therefor those parents (and therefor all authority) are a gift from God. I think Romans 13:1-4 says it better, especially the line, “for he is God’s minister to you for good.”

    Further you also are saying, I think, that the commandments say that the government has certain responsibilities toward it’s citizenry and that God will work through the governments fulfillment of these responsibilities in order to bless people. Again, of course, everything works out best when God’s Law is followed, but can we say that the commandments are teaching us about governmental responsibilities? I think this is kind of turning them on edge or inside out or something.

    I’m sorry, perhaps it is the late hour, but I really don’t understand your point about the Fifth Commandment. I get the first clause. I think I get the second, but again, I don’t think that commandment is primarily aimed at government. There are places in the Bible that more clearly give the responsibility to protect life to governments, are there not? And the final clause of that sentence totally looses me. Is the antecedent to the pronoun it and its, the government? And what is the greater responsibility in the fourth commandment of which you write?

    Again, in the same paragraph, the Sixth Commandment is not addressed to government, but to individuals and tells us how we are to live our individual lives. Not how the government should make its laws. Yes, it would be nice if there were laws to support Biblical marital choices, but I really don’t think that the commandments address government. You’re phraseology on that one is somewhat more to my taste, however. I’d still rather it read, “The Sixth Commandment reveals that God wants lifelong marriage, obviously between one man and one woman.” And leave the government part out. Not that I disagree about the beneficence of Biblical civic laws,. I just don’t think the commandments address that.

    And so on with your discussion of the other commandments. Yes, I’ve had this discussion with you before, I think. I am perhaps ready to be convinced, but it just isn’t there for me yet. This really seems to me like dependence upon worldly philosophy to try to support a certain kind of government.

    And don’t get me wrong. I in no wise mean to disparage the gifts God has given us through our system of government and constitution and property and capitalism and democracy and freedom and etc. But I’m not comfortable using the Ten Commandments this way. It’s a bit too much “implication” and “inference” and “seeming” for me.

    I have heard this same thing discussed slightly differently. Perhaps even at the Plucked Chicken? I think it is in the context of individual civic rights, which as you know is another of my “issues.” I think it goes like this. The commandments can show us God’s ideals with regard to human interaction and therefor, civil society. For instance, if we are not to kill, then, therefor, another must be able to assume a right to live. Again if we ought not steal, then those from whom we are not to steal must have a right to their property. Further,if we are not to commit adultery, this then, protects the right of married people to have a God pleasing marriage. And so on. I think I am finally comfortable with the use of the word “rights” in this sense. (But I’m still not convinced that this is how the founders used the term, however.)

    But to use the commandments to dictate governmental responsibilities is something I just don’t see.

    Sorry this got so long. You’ve been writing such “deep” things lately, my poor overly full “mom-brain” can’t keep up.

    And good grief, what’s with this crazy word verification thing. I had to keep going back to see which “captcha” I was on.

    Oh, OK, I see, I get the little letter guys after I initially press submit. Duh. I suppose those letter guys are called captchas?


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