A few principles & practices on Christian Citizenship
Adapted from a brochure by Three Village Church (East Setauket, NY, USA)
Christians possess dual citizenship. They belong to the kingdom of God and they also belong to particular nations. Here are 11 principles & practices to help us live out our Christian faith in a broken world.
- God is Creator and Lord all things, and has called us to subdue all things to His glory. (Genesis 1:1, 28; Revelations 4:11; Romans 11:36; 1Corinthians 10:3)
Consequently, every sphere of life (including the political) is important and spiritual. Christians should seek to be informed of the political and social issues in our country and world.
- God’s Word is given to equip Christians for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Consequently, there is no issue facing us that the Bible does not speak to in the some way, and we must be careful not to single out any issue as uniquely worthy of the Christian’s attention.
- God has commissioned Christians to be ‘’salt and light.’’ (Matthew 5:13, 16, 24; Mark 9:50)
Consequently, every Christian should act upon his convictions in the social and political realms of life, employing all lawful means available. Furthermore, every Christian should be sensitive to how he or she acts; how we present our convictions is at least as important as the substance of our convictions.
- The governments of this world are established by God as necessary evils to limit the potential reign of evil. (Romans 13:1-7)
Consequently, the Christian citizen must work within the law, respecting it for God’s sake, rather than because it is sound in every way. He or she must also respect all those who represent the law (police, magistrates, elected officials). There may be extreme instances warranting disobedience to the law, in which case the Christian should be willing to endure the consequences of law breaking.
- Jesus taught us to make a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, reminding us that we have responsibilities to both. (Mark 12:17)
The first, to which our deepest allegiance belongs, is international and spiritual, crossing all the barriers set by the second. It`s enforced by the working of the Holy Spirit upon the heart through the Word of God. This distinction reminds us that we must resist the temptation to equate any national government, or any human institution, with God`s kingdom.
This distinction implies further, that we limit our expectations regarding societal change through political means, remembering that the key to all such change is not a particular set of laws, or a party, or a government, but the working of the gospel in the hearts of people, one by one.
This distinction implies further, that we see prayer as the primary and most powerful means of bringing change to society. We should pray, in particular, that rulers will maintain both social order and religious freedom of expression, since these are both necessary for the Word of God to be lived out and proclaimed (1 Timothy 2:1-7).
- The church of Jesus Christ, representing the present and coming reign of Jesus Christ, has been given a priority mandate to proclaim the gospel. (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 28:19-20)
Consequently, care must be taken that our involvement in political and social issues will neither divert us from this task nor divide us unnecessarily from each other or from those whom we are seeking to reach.
- A distinction must be made in Christian thinking between the role of the individual Christian and the roe of the “church-as-the-church” in addressing issues of Christian citizenship.
The individual is free (and obligated) to be involved in petitioning, voting, contributing, marching, etc. according to his conscience. The church-as-the-church, on the other hand, must preserve her primary task.
Therefore, we will encourage people to be informed and active citizens, but will take care not to permit our corporate involvement in social and political issues to divert our attention unduly from fulfilling the Great Commission.
- A distinction must be made in Christian thinking between principles and strategies.
Principles are expression of moral law, and it is the duty of individuals and of the church-as-the-church to promote and uphold God`s law. Strategies are the flawed and varied efforts we engage in to implement the moral law in society. In the realm of strategies the “church-as-the-church” must ordinarily give individual Christians the freedom and responsibility to discuss and act according to their own best judgment.
Therefore, the Church must be careful not to prescribe strategies, nor to give the impression that it`s doing so.
- Christians are ambassadors of Christ, exiles on earth, representing in public life their true King and homeland. (2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Peter 2:11-17)
Christian citizens should therefore live exemplary public lives so as to give honour to their true Sovereign. They`ll never be content to limit their civic and social behaviour by the questions, “Is it legal?” or “Can I get away with it?” They will always ask further questions, such as, “Is what I am doing moral?” and, “Does this please Christ?” and, “Will what I am about to do dishonour or inhibit Christ`s place in the public mind?”
- The Christian citizen is properly motivated by the desire to be faithful to God and not the need to see his social/political agenda (however worthy) succeed. (Psalm 46:10; 1 Samuel 24:1-3)
Therefore, he should patiently pursue what he deems right, even if the “right” never materializes. Furthermore, he should resist the tendency, born of impatience, to employ unworthy means to realize his dream more quickly.
- The Gospel champions the dignity of the individual and the freedom of the conscience. (Gen. 1:26-27; Ro. 14:23; 2 Cor. 5:11; 2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Tim 2:1-2
Consequently, the Christian citizen should continually ask, “How will my civic actions affect in the long run the freedom of all religious faith and practice in my country?” He will bear in mind that mixing politics and religion too tightly can violently polarize a nation and lead to the loss of religious freedom.