I make a pretty big deal of the confusion of the Jews, in looking for a Messiah to deliver them from Rome. They thought their Branch would grow up to displace all other kings and kingdoms, and could not understand a King Who gave anything to Caesar. They finally rejected the Anointed One when He refused to be tempted to the throne by a Sunday morning parade with palm leaves.
They did not know Jesus. He had already resisted the temptation of the Devil to be given the kingdoms of the world. I suspect when the people He loved tempted Him to take the kingdoms of the world, it was an even harder temptation for Him to resist, but He was ready. He must have wished to see those children rejoicing in their victory, but in the end He knew that they would have been rejoicing in something much less than God Himself.
Jesus never flinched. He continued to declare, "My kingdom is not of this world."
So, how are we better than those Jews when we pray for America, or for its churches?
Are we not praying to see our Christ establish His control over the White House? Are we not praying for His kingdom to come - visibly. In the most real of senses, are we not erring precisely as did those Jews?
Let me read the king of all "pray for America" verses:
1 Tim 2:1-3
I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
We ought to intercede for kings "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Do we? Or do we pray to make those institutions into God's very kingdom. If Paul had coached Timothy to pray as we might wish, would he not have prayed for the conversion of Nero, and the overthrow of paganism? I know there are many Christians who will assert that this is exactly what Paul meant, but it is not.
I am a patriot. I raised my right and, and swore to defend the constitution of this country and served four years. This is a good country, and one I would choose over and again. I will participate in the electoral process, and have served as a judge and presiding judge in elections. I will even keep up with Kansas Bob's great analysis of each of the '08 candidates. There is more good in America than there is bad.
But I am not confused about the kingdom to which I am born.
My kingdom is as far above America as the heavens are above the earth. I will not weep when America shrugs off her last vestige of Christianity. I will not pray for hours that America continue to look like a Christian nation. It's all a show these days, and it's a game I won't even watch on TV.
And I still don't feel good about the churches our tax breaks support. At their worst, the denominations are just another human government that has nothing to do with the invisible kingdom of God. At their best, the churches are the visible gathering of the invisible kingdom of God, and still they don't know whom they are. They pour out sweat and riches on so much that is visible, and need to be taught how to do real work in the invisibles.
Acts 13:2 records, "As they ministered to the Lord..."
Can anyone tell me that this is the primary work of the organization we call church? Singing, praising, and being taught are all good things, but ministering to the Lord is a higher, real thing. By God's grace, we may still realize that we are part of an invisible kingdom much larger than America.
Saving Rome was never Paul's intent. Even so, let's look for something deeper and better than saving America.
Thy kingdom come.
They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.