Christian Citizenship & the Politics of Love

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jul/Aug 2013.

Americans have the privilege of living in a country with a great heritage and great opportunities. Our country has never been perfect, so it’s right for us to pray with the patriotic song line, “America, America, God mend thine every flaw.” But is there more that we should do about those flaws than pray? And if so, what shape should our public engagement look like? In particular, what about a Christian’s involvement in politics and social campaigning? Is there a way for us to put feet to our prayers that doesn’t put our feet on the wrong path?

This is a divisive issue among Christians. On one side are those who advocate a militant political approach to our nation’s moral ills. Frankly, I’m uncomfortable with some of today’s prominent forms of Christian political activism. There’s a real danger for the Church and Christians to become overly politicized. Sometimes Christians embroiled in public arena battles seem to lose sight of what the good fight of faith is really about. On the other hand are those who advocate a withdrawal from all engagement, seeing it as a rival to true Christian ministry. In some cases this includes prohibitions against voting of any kind. While I view my calling as an ambassador of Christ of far greater importance than my being a citizen of a great country, I believe there is such a thing as Christian citizenship, a way to meaningfully engage in the concerns of public life without getting our gospel priorities out of order.

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Can We Celebrate Independence without Celebrating Armed Rebellion?

First appeared at SI in July of 2011.

Something doesn’t add up. We refer to July 4 as Independence Day. We refer to the war that followed as the Revolutionary War. But if we viewed ourselves as independent of British rule on July 4, how could we have engaged in revolution after July 4? Revolution normally precedes independence. Either the day or the war is a misnomer.

For Christians the incongruity raises deeper questions. Given the response to government that Scripture requires, shouldn’t we oppose the whole idea of revolution, regardless of the circumstances? And if we’re opposed to revolution, can we rejoice in independence?

The Bible and revolution

Genesis 9 is understood by many to represent God’s re-founding of the institution of human government. The NT emphasizes submission to that institution as our Christian duty.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him. (Mark 12:16–17)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work… (Titus 3:1)

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13–15)

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