Part 1 of 3 – The Imperative of Christian Participation

Before I even attempt to bring up public policy, candidates, political parties, or this 2012 election cycle, there are three foundational issues that we must come to terms with first.

Only after we have agreement on these three foundational issues will we be able to have a fruitful discussion on the finer points of our political involvement.

Part 1 – The Imperative of Christian Participation

What role, if any, should Christians have in civil government?

I would submit to you, that if you are a Christian, who also happens to be a citizen of the United States, you have at least three sets of biblical obligations as they relate to this discussion.

First, you are a Christian.

Let’s start with something we all agree on.  You and I are responsible to live a life becoming of a disciple of Christ.  As an ambassador of the kingdom of God, your first loyalty is to the heavenly kingdom. (Phil. 3:20)  And in the event this loyalty is challenged by the two following obligations, then we affirm that we must make our obedience to God’s commands the first and only priority.

I think we’re in agreement on this point, so I’ll move on.

Second, you are a Citizen.

God has providentially determined where you will be born, what country you will call home, and what government you will live under.  For those of us in the United States of America, this means we have been put here as citizens of this country and under a democratic form of government. (Though not a Democracy per se.)  This presents us with various obligations:

  • Obey the Law (Titus 3:1, Romans 13:5, I Peter 2:13-14)
  • Pay Your Taxes (Romans 13:7, Luke 20:25)
  • Pray (I Tim 2:1-2) – Specifically, we are to pray for our leaders, and that we may live and worship in peace.
  • Be Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13) – The very presence of believers in a society has a positive effect on those around them. (We see a similar dynamic in I Cor. 7:14.)
  • Make Use of the Rights Afforded by our Citizenship (Acts 22:25)

What about voting?  I would argue quite vigorously that voting should be seen as the duty of all Christians who have such a privilege.  The following points serve to draw our attention to at least some of the biblical principles that would support this view:

  • We are commanded to fulfill our civic duties. (Matthew 22:21)
  • The Bible is replete with verses emphasizing the importance of wisely choosing your leaders – it seems that the application to voting would be quite straightforward.  (Deut. 1:13, Exodus 18:17-21, I Samuel 12, Hosea 8:4)
  • Wicked leaders bring about suffering, while righteous leaders bring prosperity. (Proverbs 29:2, 11:10)
  • We are to love our neighbor, and based on the above point, a vote for righteous leaders is an expression of that.

We could unpack this further, but since I suspect that most people reading this already agree with me regarding our basic duties as citizens, I want to take this a step further.

Third, you are Caesar. 

Yes, you read that right.  You are Caesar – or at least one of the “all that are in authority” in II Tim. 2.  Now don’t get a big head.  There are, after all, millions of others who should also claim this mantle.

You see, in the American experiment, where the government is for the people and by the people we have been entrusted by God with a certain level of responsibility as not just citizens, but as leaders.  We have each been given a small measure of authority in the operation of our government.  Most of us are quick to acknowledge the privilege this is, but we are often leery to accept the responsibility that it places on us.

This means that your activity in the political realm must now be viewed, not just as that of a Christian and a citizen, but as a leader.  This would be a whole study in and of itself, so let’s just remind ourselves of some basics in regard to what biblical leadership looks like – thought this list could be ten times as long:

  • We are to serve others
  • We are to consult God and his word in decisions
  • We are held accountable for how we lead

So now I ask you, as an American, who God providentially placed in this country, and by extension, whom God ordained (Rom. 13:1) to be a small part of the government, how will you rule?  Will you rule as a despot who cares only for your own comfort?  Will you be a lazy disengaged leader who doesn’t wish to be bothered with matters of state?  Will you be a wicked leader whose choices bring about suffering to your fellow citizens?  Or will you lead in righteousness?  What does this look like?

If simply being a citizen compels us to vote, then what additional responsibility is conveyed upon us as Caesar?  I’ll leave that as an open question for now, but I think it deserves our careful consideration.

Yes, as a follower of Christ in the United States of America, you are called to be a Christian, a Citizen, and Caesar.

– Jeremy

P.S. I’d love to hear what you think!  Just be sure that your comments are examples of Christian charity, and I welcome your accountability that I do likewise!

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