I think it matters, but not in the way you might think.
“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7)
This is an often quoted verse. It is especially quoted in our culture in an attempt to call our society back to God. However you interpret the current political climate, it is likely you’ve already heard this verse quoted a few times in the 2016 election cycle. I get the motive. And, it would be great if all people suddenly decided to recognize God and bow the knee to his governance. Sounds like heaven on earth right?
Well, I think that is where the confusion lies. Heaven on earth is a possible reality (Matt. 6:10; Rev. 21:1). And a time when everyone will recognize God and bow the knee to his governance will happen (Phil. 2). But, neither of those realties will come about through a particular nation on earth, like the United States, England, Saudi Arabia, or China. As much as there are God fearing, Jesus following people in these nations, those nations, themselves, do not equate to the body of Christ.
The criterion for being a part of the body of Christ has nothing to do with earthly, political or territorial preference or residence. Visas and citizenship have no bearing on a person’s membership in the people of God. God’s people are formed by those from anywhere in the world, who have willingly chosen, in faith, to surrender their entire life and future to his Son Jesus’ governance.
The section from 2 Chronicles (listed at the beginning) concludes with an emphasis on land. If we look at the context around this passage, a picture emerges that shows that these words of God are not a general principle to be applied to any and all nations throughout all of time. It is a specific word from God concerning his purposes for a particular time and place.
In 2 Chronicles, God tells Solomon, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there (emphasis mine).”
Notice that the references to place or land are references to the location of the temple of God. The land of Israel is directly tied to the temple, because it was the location of the residence of God’s presence in Israel. This promise was definitely applicable in Solomon’s day.
Israel was the nation through which God formed and called to be the vehicle through which his redemption plan would unfold; and the fulness of his presence would be made know to the world. But, that’s all they were, a vehicle.
The fulness of God’s presence was not to be limited to an earthly location. In the New Testament, we encounter Jesus declaring and teaching that he is true temple. The temple of stone that Solomon built was just a preview of the true temple to come. In Jesus, the presence of God dwelt; and because of Jesus’ resurrection it still dwells and is made known to us today by his Spirit’s work in the world.
In our day, when we read 2 Chronicles 7, we do read a history of God’s provision and care for the Israelites. But, more so, we see a promise made and it’s fulfillment made known. Since Jesus came, God no longer works exclusively through a national people group. Rather, he, being the new earthly location of God’s presence, formed his own people group. The Apostle Peter says of the body of Christ, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (emphasis mine) (1 Peter 2:9).” And, this new people group is no longer defined by territories or political boundaries. It is a people group comprised of people all over the earth. Jesus, himself, in his description of the meek who would be welcomed and shaped in his kingdom (nation) says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). And, even John in his revelation vision notes that when Christ fully establishes his governance over the world, that there will be a new heaven and a near earth (Rev. 21:1). Note, God’s new people don’t just reside in a bordered-off land, tucked-away somewhere. No, God’s new people will inherit and reside all over the earth.
God’s mission and people are never to be limited to a particular nation. It is meant for all people, who will entrust their life and future to him.
What matters more: the faithfulness to God of the nations of the earth, or the faithfulness to God of the nation that Christ has established. The answer: the nation that Christ has established. Ultimately, the faithful to Christ will received their inheritance — the earth; and ultimately, everyone — whether they choose to or not — will bow the knee to Jesus (and not with a blessed inheritance afterward). When we read this promise that God made to Solomon and the people of Israel, that we read in 2 Chronicles, let it be a sign pointing us toward the fuller and more beautiful and all-encompassing Lordship and nation that Christ is establishing through his body of faithful followers. Be as involved in the matters of earthly politics and nations, as Christ’s Spirits leads you. But, in the end, they are not the primary concern of Christ’s body. Christ’s mission is. If we belong to Christ, we are merely called to welcome all people into membership in his blessed nation — his body — the church.