my favorite quotes by Jonathan Leeman’s book have been helpful for me:
Chapter 1 – A Nation Raging, A Church Unchanging
“Paul asked the Jews of his day, ‘You who preach against stealing, do you steal?’ (Rom. 2:21). I’ve got a few questions of my own: You who call for immigration reform, do you practice hospitality with visitors to your church who are ethnically or nationally different from you?
You who vote for family values, do you honor your parents and love your spouse self-sacrificially?
You who speak against abortion, do you also embrace and assist the single mothers in your church? Do you encourage adoption? Do you prioritize your own children over financial comfort?
You who talk about welfare reform, do you give to the needy in your congregation?
You who proclaim that all lives matter, do your friends look like you?
You who lament structural injustices, do you work against them in your own congregation? Do you rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?
You who fight for traditional marriage, do you love your wife, cherishing her as you would your own body and washing her with the water of the Word?
You who are concerned about the economy and the job market, do you obey your boss with a sincere heart, not as a people-pleaser but as you would obey Christ?
You who care about corporate taxes, do you treat your employees fairly? Do you threaten them, forgetting that he who is both their Master and yours in heaven and that there is no partiality with him?” (pg. 16)
“I love how my church’s senior pastor Mark put it: “Before and after America, there was and will be the church. The nation is an experiment. The church is a certainty.” (pg. 17)
Chapter 3 – Heart: Not Self-Exalting, But Born Again And Justified
“Good governments and righteous civil societies are good things, just like marriages and jobs are good things. Still, at the risk of sounding cliché, you have to let America go. Give it back to God. He might take it away. He might give it back. You will be okay either way if you have him. That doesn’t mean you stop working for the nation’s good. With or without the world’s favor, we can practice true righteousness and justice and glory and joy now. With or without the world’s favor, we can have assurance that – precisely at his chosen time – the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and he will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). (pg. 73)
Chapter 5 – Government: Not A Savior, But A Platform Builder
“Now, I do think Winston Churchill was right when he said, ‘democracy is the worst form of Government except for all the other forms that have been tried.’ Yet keep in mind that I’m drawing these Churchillian convictions out of the wisdom bucket, not out of the biblical law bucket. For a democracy to work, the right kind of political culture must be in place. There must be a strong tradition of respecting the rule of law. Citizens must prize honesty and eschew bribes . . .” (pg. 123)
Chapter 6 – Churches: Not Lobbying Organizations, But Embassies of Heaven
“A Church is and is not a political threat . . . yes, Christians and churches are a threat to the stability of a Roman (or American) way of life; but no, they are not out to provoke civil strife. Yes, the presence of Christians in a society will prove to be bad for businesses based on wickedness and idolatry; but no, mobs of church members will not tear down temples, shops, and networks. Yes, churches will challenge the idols and false gods that prop up every government, whether the gods of the Roman Empire or the gods of the secular West; but no, they don’t try to overthrow the state. Churches both are and are not a political threat to the civic order. ” (pgs. 138-39)
“Once again, the church’s most powerful political word is the gospel. And the church’s most powerful political testimony is being the church.” (pg. 161)
Chapter 7 – Christians: Not Cultural Warriors, But Ambassadors
“We need to remember that politics in this world will always be Sisyphean. Do you remember Sisyphus? He was the king in Greek mythology who was condemned by the gods to roll an immense boulder up a hill, watch it roll down, and then repeat the act for eternity. So it is with our political accomplishments in this world. Build the freest nation in the world, and then watch it enslave its subjects, abort its babies, or maybe even persecute Christians. Down the hill the boulder rolls. The Wilberforce stories inspire the soul, but don’t forget the realities and upside-down judgments of Ecclesiastes either: “I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness.” (3:16). “He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them” (10:9). (pg. 171)
Chapter 8 – Justice: Not Just Rights, But Right
“I don’t know if America’s divisions today are run of the mill or if the nation stands on the precipice of a cataclysmic division, where rule of law gives way. My own instinct is that our nations’ relative wealth masks the depth of division. If the economy were to collapse, we would discover what the country is really made of. Either way, do you think America possesses the tools to heal its divisions? It depends on where we look for justice.” (pg. 203)
“What do you think: Is our national vision statement on justice enough to heal our national divisions? Do we just need someone to repeat the Gettysburg Address? Or let me sharpen the question: Can you and I, no matter which gods we worship, justly govern ourselves together based merely on a shared commitment to the principles of freedom, equality, and individual rights? Can three hundred million of us do that? I think the answer is no. Apart from a fear of God, the hope of the Declaration and Gettysburg is a misplaced hope for a nation. Christians should not merely be interested in equality, liberty, and individual rights, but in a just equality, a just liberty, and a just set of rights, as God defines just.” (pg. 205)
“True justice doesn’t start with our rights. It starts with God’s righteousness and his understanding of what’s right. We do justice by doing what’s right, which includes respecting people’s rights. First right, then rights. The order is crucial. What God says is right is the root; rights are the flower . . . eventually those flowers will shrivel and die. “I have a right to an abortion.” “I have a right to my prejudices and my hate.” “I have a right to marry whomever I please.” Really? Says who? When we disregard what God says is right, then anyone can say which rights are right and which aren’t. There is no rebuttal. There is no public and accepted righteousness or standard of right. Rights are wonderful gifts when a society is virtuous, possessing a godly standard of right. Less so when it becomes unvirtuous.” (pg. 217)
“God’s common grace grants many a nation better than it deserves, but I have little confidence that America will long remain strong, prosperous, and free without any concept of God’s righteousness and justice somewhere in the background. That’s not because I believe in a civil prosperity gospel: obey God and the nation will be blessed as his chosen people. It’s because I believe the way of God’s righteousness and justice is the way of wisdom. And prosperity and flourishing ordinarily come to the wise. The nation can be strong apart from God’s righteousness, like a totalitarian state is strong. Or it can be “free,” in some impoverished and mangy sense of that word, like a stray dog is free. But it won’t be both.”
Final Thoughts: Why the Battle Might Get Worse, but Our Political Hopes Can Remain Unchanged, Untroubled, Untouched
“Which brings me back to healthy churches. If there is hope for the nation, it’s through the witness and work of churches. Our congregations have the opportunity to live transformed lives as a transformed culture through a transformed politics in their own fellowships right now – all for God’s glory and our neighbors’ good. And we will become such heavenly outposts when we focus first not on the public square, but on preaching the Word and making disciples. Together those disciples must grow up to maturity, into Christ, as each part does its work (Eph. 4:13-16). The resonant effects in the home, the marketplace, the public square, and the rest of life then follow. God does not intend to display his own justice and righteousness and wisdom through the wise, noble, and powerful things of this world, but through the foolish, weak, and despised things. He means to magnify himself not primarily through the US Congress, the New York Times editorial page, or Ivy League philosophy departments, but through Brother Bob, Sister Sue, and Deacon Darnell down at Bumblestew Baptist. Oh, nations of the earth, watch those three gather in Jesus’ name to see the way of God’s justice and mercy. They are God’s salt and light for you. Do you sense something distinct in them? See something bright? They are far from perfect, to be sure. But their King is perfect. And their lives together should offer you the first taste of his kingdom.” (pg. 238-39).