Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Christ and Government:Watch Out!-by Linden Malki

Hanging on a wall in the chapel at Vallersvik Baptist Conference Center on the west coast of Sweden is a door from a prison. At one time in the early 1850's, the man in the cell was F.O. Nilsson, the first Baptist preacher in Sweden. "In the year 1848 the first Baptist congregation in Sweden was organized after five people were immersed in the sea at Vallersvik [at midnight, on September 21] on the coast of Halland [Province]. In spite of the edict forbidding spiritual meetings outside of the Church of Sweden, people gathered for Bible study, prayer, and songs of praise.*"  F.O. Nilsson was named the first pastor, and he was arrested, tried, and in 1853 he was officially banished from Sweden. He came to America, where he preached and founded churches up and down the Mississippi River valley in Minnesota. His brother S.K. Nilsson, one of those original five, held church in his farmhouse in Minnesota. One of his daughters was my grandmother.

The following King did rescind the banishment, and over the years, free churches were increasingly tolerated and in 2000, the state church was cut loose from the government. Even though the state church had political power, it was not healthy, and Swedish society does not demonstrate much evidence of a Christian witness. A government does not make a healthy church, and churches do not make good governments. Even ancient Israel was not a theocracy; God's Word came to both the kings and people through the prophetic tradition. When King Saul got impatient and offered a sacrifice himself, it cost him his kingdom (I Samuel 13). Jesus refused to get drawn into political discussions; the early church grew and developed under hostile governments. Yes, we are called to speak truth to all people, which include those in every part of society. Those in positions of leadership and power are accountable to God, as are we all. But God's power in the world is not dependent upon man's political favoritism.
* Faith, Freedom, Fellowship: Swedish Baptists 150th Year Jubilee Proclamation, 1998.

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