Faithful Citizenship When Kingdoms Collide

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:7 ESV)

How Should Christians be Involved in Government? Significant Influence

Significant influence[1] means that the church must retain its prophetic role. Anything that smells like politicizing the church or the gospel must be avoided. As an example, Billy Graham was an advisor to presidents but didn’t endorse them.

But that doesn’t mean becoming a monastery either. Light influences darkness wherever it goes, and Jesus called Christians the light of the world. We should do everything we can to influence society and government toward the light. Light here isn’t republicanism or term limits or border walls. It’s moral light. Light that guides governments to lead toward God’s common grace for human flourishing.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

Where Christianity influences, that influence is toward God’s wisdom and will—things like human dignity, morality, the inherent value of human life, religious freedom, justice, punishment of evil, promotion of his gifts to society including marriage, family, and loving your neighbor. Think of the moral principles behind the influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or William Wilberforce in England two centuries ago. Both appealed to man’s conscience in the treatment of human beings. One changed the British Empire, the other the American empire.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Seek the good of your city. Pray for your city. Pray for your leaders. Paul writes to Timothy urging prayers for “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:2–3).

Pray for governors over us that they would make decisions that allow us to live peaceful and productive lives. This pleases God. How about we up our prayer game in this category?

Christians should seek to significantly influence every category of society

Love your neighbor as yourself includes using every tool available to promote human flourishing. Seeking the good of our city. We should want clean water, quality healthcare, etc. We should be influencing stakeholders and powerbrokers toward love and justice for our neighbor. We should be the kind of church that when the chips are down, people turn to us, including government leaders. We build trust. We build relationships.

Christians can serve in government as a means to significant influence

Some Christians may choose to seek public office. This is completely legitimate as long as political power isn’t seen as a means to an end that only the gospel can provide. We need more Christian statesman-types on all levels of government.

In a democracy, voting is a Christian stewardship

We are blessed to live in a democracy where we possess a small stake in the government. A vote. In the US, each of us are 1/330 millionth Caesar. If we are to pray for peace and the good of our city, shouldn’t we at minimum vote toward those same goals? Shouldn’t we vote for candidates who, as best as we can tell, will lead and legislate toward God’s will? They are all sinners, so nothing is guaranteed. Still, I urge you to vote and take your Christianity into the ballot box with you.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] See Wayne Grudem, Politics to the Glory of God: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 55.

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