On June 24, 2022 the Supreme Court made the wonderful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. When the news broke it was immediately recognized as a time for celebration for Christians, and for good reason. But along with the positivity, there’s been another side of the Christian response which has been troubling. That is, many Christians have pointed to this as evidence of the good that Christians can accomplish by pursuing political influence and power. It is argued that Roe v. Wade would have never been overturned without Christians using the political strategies and choices that were necessary to bring about this change.
Although I unapologetically celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision, I do not believe that Christians should look to earthly power as the primary, or even as one of the ways to bring about good in the world. Not only do I whole heartedly oppose abortion, I also believe that the kingdom of God must be kept distinct from the kingdom of the world; not only in what we say is wrong, but also in how we fight against what we recognize as wrong. As a believer in moral absolutes, I believe abortion is wrong and is destructive to society. I also think it is important for Christians to heed the warning of Psalm 146:3, to “put not your trust in princes.” As a Christian, I celebrate the Supreme Court for their decision which could potentially save millions of lives, and I call on Christians to faithfully follow the way of Jesus, who rejected earthly political influence in order to establish a kingdom which is not of this world.
Yes, I know I’m being redundant. But that’s because some Christians still just don’t get it. Let me make myself perfectly clear: I oppose abortion. Abortion is murder. Abortion is selfish. Abortion is immoral. Christians should actively fight against evil, and abortion is evil. But none of this should be viewed as justification for Christians to fight against evil in ways that blur the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. This is precisely what most (if not all) activities and decisions made in the pursuit of earthly power cause Christians to do.
A Kingdom Not Of This World
My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.John 18:36
When Jesus claimed “My kingdom is not of this world”, He pointed to the observable fact that his disciples were not fighting to substantiate that claim. Of course, you could say that in a sense Jesus’s entire ministry was a fight against evil. But even still, Jesus’s disciples were not fighting in the same way that other revolutionaries would fight.
When Jesus used the phrase “of this world” He was not speaking of the geographic location of His kingdom, but rather He was referring to the world’s way of doing things. For example, Jesus said He came to testify against “the world” because its deeds are evil (Jn. 7:7). Elsewhere, John would say, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The contrast between “of this world” and “not of this world” is referring to the world’s ways of doing things and a godly way of doing things.
If Jesus’s disciples had a reputation of fighting in the same way the world fights, Jesus’s claim would have been completely meaningless. Can you imagine Pilate’s response if this had been the case? “What do you mean your kingdom is not of this world? Then why is Peter standing out there handing out picket signs at the political rally? Why did Matthew just send a donation to a Roman senator? And why is Simon recruiting more zealots?” But as it was, Jesus’s disciples were not fighting, and so Jesus’s teaching stood with the weight of observable truth.
Yes, Jesus’s early followers, like us, also had an earthly citizenship. But despite the fact that they lived under subjection to the kingdoms of this world, their distinction from the world remained apparent. They were “in” the world but not “of” the world.
Scripture drives home this distinction when it teaches us to view ourselves as soldiers stationed in a foreign country, and thus refuse to let ourselves get entangled in “civilian pursuits” (2 Tim. 2:4). It teaches us to view ourselves as “strangers” and “exiles”, just like Abraham did (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16; 1 Peter 2:11).
Note this carefully – preserving our “exile” status is at the very core of who we are. That’s why Scripture repeatedly stresses the fact that we are called to be a “holy” people (2 Cor. 6:17), indicating that we are to be “set apart” (Ps. 4:3). Like Israelites coming out of Egypt to be “set apart” for God, Christians are instructed to “come out” of Babylon (Rev. 18:4). We are to be holy in the same way that God is holy. Our holy and distinct relationship with the world should be every bit as holy and distinct as Jesus’s relationship with the world.
It’s important to understand that I’m not arguing that Christians should adapt an escapist position, where we simply isolate ourselves from societal problems such as abortion. When God called Israel to be a “holy nation”, the purpose was not to isolate them from other nations. Israel was to be a holy nation so that they would serve as a light to the other nations (Isa. 49:6; 55:4-5, etc). God’s plan was always to bless all nations through Abraham’s family (Gen. 12:1-3).
So too, Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt. 5:13-16). But in order for us to be salt in the world, we must maintain our distinction from the world.
If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
One way we maintain our holy distinction from the world is by refusing to pursue ruling authority over others. That’s the way the world tried to accomplish great things, but Jesus explicitly instructs us not to seek that kind of power.
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But is shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.Mark 10:42-45
God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son (John 3:16), and we are to imitate His love for the world by imitating his self-sacrificial behavior (Eph. 5:1-2). If we really love the world, and want to make a positive difference in the world, we would do well to love the world in the same way God did. The reason we are not to be “of” the world is so that we can be “for” the world.
We are not simply called to do “good”. We are called to be faithful. We are called to “imitate Christ”. We are called to be holy.
Jesus and the Temptation to Do Good
Paul says that we must be careful not to be outwitted by Satan’s designs (2 Cor. 2:11). With this in mind, we would be wise to reflect on how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, so that we do not fall into a similar trap.
The Devil tempted Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5-8). The Devil essentially offered Jesus what he came to get (Mt. 28:18-20), but by way of an immediate shortcut that would bypass his sacrificial death on the cross.
Think about it. Without having to suffer and die, Jesus could have immediately taken all the kingdoms of the world into his possession. Can you imagine how much “good” Jesus could have done if he had accepted Satan’s offer? He could have quicky overturned every evil law in Roman society. Jesus could have immediately outlawed abortion throughout the world. The Devil’s temptation would not have been a temptation if there was not a lot of “good” wrapped up in it.
Yet Jesus refused. Why? Because Jesus did not come just to give us an improved and more “godly” version of the kingdoms of this world. Instead, Jesus came to bring a kingdom that is not of this world. In fulfillment of Psalm 2, Jesus came to replace “the kingdom of the world” with “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” (Rev. 11:15-18). He didn’t just come to fix the kingdoms of this world. He came to put them out of business, thus turning all nations to him.
As tempting as the immediately good consequences may have been, Jesus refused to lose the radical distinction of his Kingdom in exchange for the Satan-ruled kingdom of this world. No matter how much good he could have done. He refused to rule like the Gentiles did. If we are dedicated to following Jesus’s example, we must resist the temptation to trade our holy mission regardless of how much “good” we might think we can accomplish by using other means.
Continue the Fight
Abortion is a great evil. Its existence testifies to the fact that Satan is, in a very real sense the “ruler of the world” (Jn. 14:30; 16:11), “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:1-4), and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:1-2). Abortion thrives only under Satan’s “domain of darkness” (Col. 1:3). That’s why it is so important that in our fight against abortion, we are careful not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2).
So what do we do now? Christians should continue the fight against abortion as they have done in the past, yet without the pursuit of earthly power. Keep finding ways to serve the poor and the needy in your community. Keep inviting them into your homes. Keep supporting single mothers. Keep volunteering at pregnancy crisis centers. Keep adopting. Keep getting involved in foster care. Keep donating to children’s homes. Keep praying. The church has long led the charge in these type of actions, and that must continue. Yes, all of these things require a degree of personal sacrifice, but imitating the sacrificial savior is precisely what sets us apart from the world. Because of the gospel, sacrifice is how we believe we will win.
If we want to see Satan’s dominion weakened, we must remain faithful to God’s kingdom. Two thousand years ago, Jesus pointed to his disciples’ refusal to fight as proof that his kingdom was not of this world. When Jesus looks at our fight against abortion, does he see that our actions still bear witness to that truth?