The first time Jesus wept, it was over the death of his friend, Lazarus. They showed Him the place where he lay. Jesus wept. It was an exhibition of His true humanity—raw emotion at the wrongful intrusion of death into human life.
The second time Jesus wept also exhibited His humanity. He wept over the city of Jerusalem—a piece of real estate, a political subdivision. This time, instead of weeping silently, He wept out loud. It was a raw display at the wrongful intrusion of war, fire, slaughter and wholesale destruction that soon would come upon the city.
“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace.” The city of peace refused to receive her Creator, the King of Peace. The temporal consequences of such rebellion are dire. “We have deserved both temporal and eternal punishments.” So Jesus addresses her as a person—as an entity of His own creation—because she is.
We live in a culture that is characterized by the denial of God the Creator. Deep philosophical currents that date back to a time even before the Renaissance burst into popular consciousness with the doctrine of Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Like every Gnostic before him, he desperately wanted to deny any direct creative links between God and man.
This poison passed from the academy into popular culture through the intentional indoctrination of our children. Incrementally—from the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925), through Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), and culminating in Edwards v. Aquillard (1987)—generations of impressionable minds have been taught that they are random accidents with no purpose and no design.
Christians recognized early on that Darwinian evolution not only turns the Genesis account into empty myth; it is a direct rejection of the One True God. It replaces the loving Creator with the gods of chance and time (the Fates and Chronos). Against this, Christians insist that purpose and design are integral to confessing that the Triune God is both Maker and Redeemer.
While the challenge of Darwinian biology drew a vigorous response from the Church, her response to Darwinian sociology has been largely muted. Few noticed that a man nine years Darwin’s junior carried that doctrine one step further. Karl Marx (1818-1883) reasoned from the random assemblage of molecules into humans to the random assemblage of humans into societies. He claimed that societies and cultures were just as random and purposeless as Darwin’s evolutionary man.
Marxism sees every culture, every political subdivision, and every society as random arrangements that can just as well be blown apart by revolution and rearranged by evolutionary forces. This should have set off alarm bells across Christendom. But rather than assert divinely created origins of societies and nations against Marx, American Lutheranism tended to retreat into a novel construct of the Two Kingdoms doctrine.
Under the guise of Luther’s terminology, the idea came to be widely implied that the estates of family and Church are direct and purposeful creations of God, while the civil estate is the creation of man. This false dichotomy concedes holy ground to Marxism and affirms the central tenet of secularism. This concession is less a developed doctrine than it is a mood. But it permeates modern theology like the fumes of Mordor.
If the Church and the family are divine creations with an intrinsic purpose and structure, but particular states and nations are not, the Church has nothing to say either to the state itself or to her members’ responsibility toward the state. Thoughtful Lutherans have spoken against this false “separation of Church and State,” but it remains part of the air we breathe.
If the city is not a direct and purposeful creation of God, why would Jesus cry over her? But if the Creator of the city is wailing at her demise, the Church cries with Him. The city is not “His new Creation by water and the Word” (LSB 644.1), but she does remain His old creation just as surely as every family within her is a creature of God. This is the relationship between Christ and culture that this magazine strives to reclaim.
The body politic is not the Body of Christ. She is against Christ and still wants to see Him crucified. Nevertheless, Christ does not hate her on this account. He loves her enough to die for her and to call out to her. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34).
Jesus is not indifferent to the wickedness of the city. Nor does he abandon her to fire and brimstone before the time appointed for her destruction. He surpasses even the solicitude of Abraham to account for every last righteous soul within her (Genesis 18:22-33).
Jesus cares that His name is blasphemed in government-run indoctrination centers. Jesus cares when public worship and prayers are hindered. Jesus cares that insurrection and rioting go unpunished, and are even encouraged. Jesus cares when the innocent blood of the unborn pollutes the land. He grieves for children taught to hate and mutilate the bodies He lovingly gave them. He weeps when the sins of Sodom are celebrated in the streets and when lies and slander pervade the land.
Jesus cares not only because individual souls are destroyed by sin, but because particular nations of His own creation are destroyed by such abominations. As Jesus cares, so His Church cares. As Jesus’ love of the city moves Him to wail and address her, so Christian love for her moves us.
The estates of family, Church, and state—all three—are creations of the same almighty and all merciful Lord. The Church is the body of Christ called out of the world and called to be separate, for sure. But Jesus deliberately keeps her in the world (John 17:15) precisely for the sake of the world. The Church is called to address God on behalf of the world and the world on behalf of God (1 Timothy 2:1-4).