With the election process in full swing, many Christians find themselves in a conundrum: how to be a good citizen of the United States and a good citizen of heaven. And since there is never any conflict among the charges God lays upon us in Scripture, there is a solution to that puzzle. Though much more might be said (and has been) on this subject, two key principles will go a long way toward illuminating the path that believers should walk, not only in this election year, but always.
Principle #1: Believers are citizens of heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Yes, we are to be good citizens of the nation in which we were born and in which we live. But our ultimate allegiance is to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ and to the “Constitution of Heaven,” the Word of God. When a human government is moral and ethical, the duties and obligations of our natural citizenship do not conflict with those of our spiritual citizenship. However, if a conflict between the two emerges, there is no dilemma. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If we cannot be faithful to the Word and fulfill our sense of responsibility as natural citizens, the choice is clear and simple: a sense of natural duty and responsibility should never supplant faithfulness to the Lord and His Word. The best natural citizen is not the one who fulfills every civic responsibility and privilege but the one who faithfully serves the Lord, come what may. This world is not going to be saved through the political process or by human government. One who puts his hope and trust in natural solutions has lost sight of his calling, has misunderstood the nature of the battle, and is destined to waste his time, energy, and emotions on profitless pursuits. Nowhere does the Word require the full exercise of all rights and responsibilities of natural citizenship, but everywhere it commands complete adherence to the Word of God.
Principle #2: Believers are engaged in a spiritual battle, not a natural one. The best that a human government can do is provide natural solutions to problems and to offer a climate conducive to or at least friendly toward what is right. Just laws, encouragements to do what is right, and swift and equitable punishment of evildoers will go a long way toward providing for an externally peaceable society. But though we ought to live peaceably with all men, that is not our ultimate calling. We are called to proclaim and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to tell even good, moral citizens that they are sinners under God’s wrath and in jeopardy of eternal hell. We are to proclaim that all need to be saved from sin and that Jesus Christ alone can deliver a sinner from the eternal consequence of his sin. The Apostle Paul offers two key truths in this regard. Whereas the political process serves a God-ordained purpose, Paul explains, first, that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12) and that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (II Cor. 10:4). Paul by no means eschews government or the proper exercise of political privilege, but he cautions that we are engaged in a spiritual battle against invisible spiritual enemies requiring faith, prayer, and steadfast obedience to God’s revealed will. Human government is not designed to fight this battle, nor should it.
To the extent that we can engage in the political process without disobeying God’s Word or sinning against our conscience, we should do so. But our first and ultimate allegiance is to heaven and its constitution: the Word of God. And our foremost duty is not to preserve the peace and domestic tranquility of this nation through engaging in the political process but to live faithfully for Christ so that we will “prove” ourselves “to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom . . . [we] appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:15, 16a). We are where God wants us to be when we make right choices, including if or to what extent we engage in any particular part of the governing process, when we put no hope or expectation in the efficacy of human government, when we proclaim the gospel, when we live for God’s glory, and when our hope lies in His appearing. “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20b).
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