The theologian Augustine wrote about “the City of God” and “the City of Man.” When it comes to politics, we Christians are citizens of God’s city. But we are still called to play a role in the city of man.
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Transcript: Welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. I’m so glad that you joined us, because we’re beginning a series titled “Christians, Politics, And The Cross.” And of course you and I know how relevant this is, in an age of political wrangling and differences and all kinds of charges and countercharges. How should we relate to politics?
Come with me to the city of Rome. It’s about 410 AD. Alaric the Goth overpowers the guards at the Salarian Gate. And he comes with his troops, and they trash the city. A few days later, the Barbarians leave the city of Rome, and Rome has been humiliated. The question is, who should the Romans blame? Well, the answer is that the Romans blamed the Christian God. After all, a hundred years or more before that time, Constantine had Christianized the empire.
So in order to defend Christians, Augustine (sometimes pronounced AU-gustine), the great theologian and philosopher, wrote a book entitled “The City of God.” And what he did in that book is to show that at one time, there was only one city. It was the City of God. But after man fell into sin, today you have two cities, the City of Man and the City of God.
What he pointed out is that the members of the City of Man lost everything when Rome was trashed, because their values are only the values of this world; but the members of the City of God, they lost nothing that was infinitely important. Because they look for a different city—a city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. So what Augustine said is that it wasn’t necessary for God to protect the City of Man. In fact, the City of Man actually deserved what it got. But it is the responsibility of the city of God, the members of that city who love God, to help this people in the city of the world.
So you have this interaction between the City of Man and the City of God, which is exactly what politics is. Now, I want to stress that the apostle Paul says in the book of Philippians. Our citizenship—the Greek word is “politeuma”—our politics, if you please, is in heaven. And in this first session together, what I want to stress is simply this. That we must keep in mind that as members of the City of God, we have a responsibility to the City of Man, but we’re under no illusions. The City of Man will never become the City of God. And what we need to do is to recognize that we are in a conflict between the kingdom of this world with its values, and the City of God with its values.
Now as I conclude today, I want to stress the fact that you and I need to recognize that God has left the City of God here, if I might put it that way, to influence and to help the City of Man to pick up the pieces of a broken culture. And to put it very clearly, we are here to separate ourselves from the values of the City of Man; but at the same time, be in the City of Man to help the City of Man understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And as I’ve already mentioned, to pick up the pieces of a very broken culture.
Now, if you join us next time, I’m gonna be talking about the relationship of the flag and the cross as we continue this series titled “Christians, Politics, And The Cross.” Remember this: we see the City of Man as a city in great need, and God has led us here to help the City of Man. And part of that help is, of course, the realm of politics. I’ll see you right here next time, and as for today, go with God.