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The sober truth is that at this season in American life, when our non-evangelical neighbors hear the word evangelical, they think of politics before they think of the gospel. Perhaps that confusion is an inevitable result of evangelicals' reengagement with electoral politics over the last few decades. But it does raise the question of whether our gospel is being reduced to politics—or whether our politics is being infused with the gospel. Jordan Hylden, a student at Duke Divinity School and former junior fellow at the influential magazine First Things, offers this response to our big question for 2008: "Is our gospel too small?"

John of Patmos saw a vision of the "New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God," but until that time came, he didn't seem to hold out much hope for the cities of this world. In fact, he was much more likely to compare the Rome of his day to Babylon, or maybe a scarlet beast. The author of Hebrews had a similar perspective on politics, if a bit less apocalyptic. "For here we do not have an enduring city," he tells us. We followers of Christ will always be "aliens and strangers on earth … longing for a better country, a heavenly one," where "God has prepared a city for us" far surpassing the Babylons of this world. Until then, he counseled, we hope for what we "do not see."

Of course that is all true, but it's not the whole story, either. The prophet Jeremiah knew a thing or two about what politics looks like in Babylon. His people were conquered by Babylon's armies and sent there into long exile. But even in Babylon itself, Jeremiah counseled his flock to "seek the welfare of the city" of their conquerors and to "pray to the Lord on its behalf." Daniel and his companions took a page ...

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Aliens and Citizens
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November 2008

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