While many of our Annual Conferences will be taking up resolutions opposing the war in Iraq, the Lutherans are taking the opposite approach. They are sending their own troops!
Driving through Waco this afternoon, I noticed a Lutheran Church, the specific name of which will remain withheld, had posted on its marquee “Support our troops.” They’ve sent their own troops?
Ok, to be fair, they didn’t specify that they were sending troops to iraq, so it is presumptuous of me to imply that the Lutherans were raising a military. But I cannot imagine a Christian group encouraging support for one Caesar’s armies over those of another Caesar, so we are left with two options.
1) The Lutherans are raising an army to be deployed somewhere
2) The Lutherans are using militaristic methaphors to describe their commitment to spreading the gospel.
Either way, it seems that The United Methodist Church is being left in the dust.
I hope that you don’t mind a Lutheran commenting in response.
Lutherans see God working in “Two Kingdoms.” These two have separate purposes, and should not be confused.
One kingdom is the Kingdom of Grace, where the Gospel of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus is proclaimed. This is the kingdom of the (capital C) Church, which is not an organization, but is found wherever the Gospel of salvation is preached and the sacraments administered.
The other kingdom is the Kingdom of Law—more often called the Kingdom of the Left Hand. This is the area of civil law and of community, where God works for a healthy society and the good of mankind.
In this the kingdom the policeman does not “wield the sword in vain” in dealing with criminals, the judge (and prison guard) serve as God’s agents in punishing rapists and thieves—and the soldier serves as God’s agent in protecting others from aggression.
Christians are citizens of both Kingdoms. While a local congregation is mainly an agency of the Kingdom of Grace—the kingdom which will still be around in ten thousand years—its members do not abandon their citizenship in God’s temporal kingdom.
In Waco, therefore, Christians remain Americans: citizens of these United States. As American citizens, they actively support the military of their country in service to their nation, as they protect people from danger, topple dictators, work to eliminate terrorism (and terrorists!), and work to bring peace in the world.
I’m sorry that I can’t do a compare-and-contrast to United Methodist theology, and I know I’ve done an inadequate job at explaining Lutheran theology. At the least, I do hope that you can understand why Lutherans can say “support our troops” while being deadly opposed to a theocracy.
God bless you always in your service to Him.
I appreciate a Lutheran response, actually!
I hadn’t thought of the “two swords” theory in a few years, and you have presented it well. I honestly didn’t doubt the perspective that put that sign up; I have no doubt there are plenty of UMCs that have the same or similar signage.
I even understand that Christians ALL have to, from time to time, choose one Caesar over others. By putting it in terms of Caesar, though, I hope to remind us that even the wonderful US Government is, in fact, Caesar.
Thanks for your response, Steve. I appreciate that. I hope you don’t mind a Lutheran clarification.
It is not a choice between two Ceasars: it is God working through both and each of them. The Two Kingdoms have differing purposes. One kingdom’s purpose is to maintain civil order and provide protection so that people can live orderly and fruitful lives. The other (the Church) is to proclaim the Gospel of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
The scriptures don’t give much guidance on the civil “Kingdom of the Left Hand” (in Luther’s terminology): Christians can differ on how to structure it, what powers it has, and how to exercise those powers. However, when the civil or governmental authority oversteps its bounds and tries to prevent the proclamation of the Gospel, then it is a time to “obey God rather than men.”