The Supreme Court’s recent decisions leave Christians reeling. Presidential policies appear to target our freedom to act according to conscience. Important elections are approaching. Culture’s “progress” pressures our relationships and our core beliefs. Should we fight back and take over society or step back and let society overtake itself? We don’t have to attempt either! The Gospel of Jesus Christ invites and enables us to neither attack nor abandon, but engage. Here are seven quick specifics of exercising Christian citizenship:
- Jesus rules both Church and world.
Jesus is Lord—period! His dying and rising have exalted Him above all places and ascended Him over all people. This God of ours has purchased the whole universe for His own. Incarnate King of hearts is also King of kings. Atoning Lord of lives is also Lord of lords. Risen and forgiving Judge of living and dead has history and eternity under His feet. The good and gracious will of God is done around the world as it is across the heavens, apart from either our cooperation or request. Civil authorities serve as His ambassadors, and God establishes every government as His instrument. In spite of appearances, He orders all happenings for preserving and benefitting life.
- We enjoy responsibilities and privileges in both Church and world.
Baptism unites us to Christ Jesus and seats us with Him on high. Heavenly Father bequeaths us His whole kingdom, above and below. As Adam’s descendants and heirs of Eve, we rightfully subdue and rule over this earth that produces our daily bread. Heaven holds us its citizens, but we live yet as residents in this realm, caretakers and brothers’ keepers. We whom God calls His sons and daughters know best both how to manage nature and govern nations because we have seen God’s will and received His Word. We have access to His own mind and heart. For our neighbor’s good, we cannot neglect any speaking and acting that will direct and defend our common life.
- Human governments keep order to make possible Gospel ministry.
Father, Son, and Spirit’s ultimate goal remains saving every human soul. His left-hand rule of earthly life facilitates His right-hand rule of everlasting life in new heavens and earth. Using governments and laws—even citizens and politics—He creates a safe environment and establishes the suitable context for His Gospel and His people to have free course. The Lord’s Law of love, written and reflected in the Ten Commandments, furnishes the framework for the more important Savior-message.
- Expect tensions and persecutions.
The nations of creation lie broken because humankind has fallen into sin. Satan proliferates temptations, and selfishness runs rampant. Men and women wrestle to become masters over the entire earth, making enemies of each other and viewing God as rival. Pride and greed, lust, indulgence and laziness, jealousy and revenge often prevail even in the lives of baptized believers. In this world we will have trouble; indeed, the world hates us as it did Jesus. Representatives of humility and peace meet violence, crucifixion even. Our struggle rages against sinful nature and Satan but also against a world of foreign mind and hostile spirit.
- When commands conflict, we obey God rather than men.
Divine authority is exercised by sinners. Sometimes governments demand ultimate and unrightful allegiance from Christians in contradiction to our Gospel confession. Sometimes leaders and laws threaten to take the goods and fame, safety and freedom, family or life God has given us. Such rulers no longer function as deputies of Almighty Maker but agents of hell. In those matters we may and must resist and rebuke, using whatever influence our goods, fame, safety, freedom, family, and life can obtain. We trust that anything God allows us to lose He will more than restore, and we stay secure in the truth of Christ.
- Faith can’t be legislated.
The Bible speaks no “separation” of church and state—and neither does the U. S. Constitution. Nevertheless, we recognize that God ordains a distinction of manner between them. The one He rules according to His Gospel and the other according to His Law. This Law, by force and coercion, commands, sets conditions, threatens consequences, and rewards obedience. It does nothing for souls or salvation. In Gospel, God does for us and gives freely unto everlasting resurrection. Law has to be permitted to precede, without interference from Gospel, in order that Gospel may supersede all. If God does not bully faith out of us, then government has no place either opposing or obligating Christianity.
- Love, joy, and gratitude compel us rather than anger, fear, or guilt.
Our failures won’t undermine the Lord’s reign. Others’ successes can’t overthrow it. This world will go on as long as God wills and will then give way to new creation. In Jesus we are guaranteed inclusion in it, as well as having the privilege of participating in His activity—not to assert superiority but to save our opponents from the devil’s deceptions and our neighbors from final destruction. Let’s exercise our majesty enthusiastically!