I find myself in a country large, cultured and full of religious – Christian – thought. Churches are everywhere, pastors and other clergymen are respected, even called upon by the government for advice and prayer. There are Christian symbols all around me, the language used in this countries documents mark a deep influence by Christianity. Time itself is measured in a Christian way. Christianity is all over the nation’s symbology, its history, its morality, its ethics – you cannot attend a government meeting without some Christian reference being made…
I am not in the United States, I am in the first “Christian” nation, that is the Roman Empire, eventually known as the Holy Roman Empire, also known as Christendom, and later the Hapsburg and Austro-Hungarian Empire. An empire, that in the truest sense was a “Christian” empire, yet, like our own nation of the United States, lacked the true sense of the call of Christ.
Any student of history would scoff at the idea the the Holy Roman Empire was holy… or even truly Roman. Yes, Latin remained the language, and yes, the Church (Roman Catholic) played an important role in the comings and goings of the empire, but any notion of true Christianity in the definition of what Europe was like during its daunting appearance in history would be truly hard to define. Yet, everyone who lived here, and in fact across all of Europe, considered there nation, their country, their empire to be Christian in founding and nature.
Criminals roamed the streets, violence could be found just around the corner at a moments notice. Government officials and religious officials alike found themselves in corruption and scandal. The common man was exploited, even to the point of slavery in one kind or another. The poor and homeless were often left as such. The rich got richer, while the poor got poorer. There was no true middle class. Churches adorned themselves in riches, even taught that if you were poor, needy, helpless it was your fault – God’s judgement against you. Decadence was everywhere for the rich – civil officials, merchants and religious officials alike. God was often spoken of, adherence to both civil morality and religious morality was demanded, yet at the highest levels disregarded. Instead of love and compassion, there was hate and condemnation.
Alas, I am not talking about the Holy Roman Empire, but the United States of America. A “tale of two empires” in reality. Both claimed to be Christian, founded by God, holy in many respects. On the surface there was appearance, but once beyond the cover of the book, the reality was and is quite different.
There is no such thing in the world as a Christian nation – not even a moral nation. It is an impossibility due to the fact that, well, it is in this world. Jesus said His Kingdom – the only truly Holy nation, was and is not of this world, yet, we are members of it, at least that is our belief. St. Paul recognized that he, like us, was part of the Kingdom of God, as well as a citizen of a kingdom of this world. He enjoyed a period of history where this was not blurred – there was no grey, only black and white, and he, like the Church, both suffered yet prospered. The world is incapable of holiness and morality, at least to our standards as believers, and we should not expect the world to be held by the standards that we are to hold ourselves to. To do so would be like expecting a newborn to have a job and hold it, and not only that, but excel in the work set out for it to do. Impossible, and yet we demand that the world be held to a higher standard, and then condemn it when it simply cannot do so.
The issue at hand is not same-sex relationships, or slavery, abortion, hate, or even any sin really. The issue is our ability to love. Love truly conquers all, and love truly gives all, but unless we allow it to, it remains on the sidelines. We cannot put our hope and faith in a government of this world, to do so is folly and naive. As Solomon would say, a “vanity of vanities,” or as a good friend of mine would put it, “just plain stupid.” We must put our faith and hope in God, and we must follow His direction, not the worlds, and walk in love.
In closing, the world – this nation and all others – in their own minds, if they feel the notion, do their very best to walk in love as they know it. The put up a standard of morality as they see it, and only as they can, because they are blind to what we believe is Truth. Sadly, they only way for the world – those around us and this nation, to see true love is through us. If we are unable, or unwilling to walk in the love of Christ, then the fault lays not with the world for their darkness, but with us for not shining a light.