Because of the current political climate and discussion about the validity of voting or even saying the Pledge of Allegiance, many Christians have been posting Bible verses on social media channels telling others to be encouraged, because this world is actually not our home. The verses are usually pulled out when the political climate goes against Republicans, and the tone with which they are often used is to imply that, “No matter what uncomfortable things happen in the world around you, just remember that scripture promises that one day you will be happy again. Don’t get angry or involved in politics because that would mean you’re making it an idol. Let’s sing Kumbaya.”
Not only is this idea extremely hurtful to our communities and our nation because of the apathy that it encourages and excuses, but it also takes verses out of context to back up its position (which tends to be the definition of heresy).
To be fair, there are several verses that reference this world not being our own and our citizenship being in heaven, but most of them have nothing to do with government, but instead with our struggle against sin as a part of our humanity. The verses that do discuss citizenship only vaguely mention government (Hebrews 11:1316) and are in the context of physical persecution by totalitarian governments.
God’s Misplaced Sovereignty
The crux of the argument regarding our citizenship being in heaven is to play the God’s sovereignty trump card (no pun intended). The sedation medicine is that God appoints the authorities (Romans 13:2), and therefore I should not participate in government (or care or make myself uncomfortable thinking about how things might turn out) because God is in control anyways. But think about this for a moment: if it is God’s sovereign choice to let things go a certain way politically it is also God’s sovereign choice to put you in a country and a place in history that allows you to participate in government.
Early Christians didn’t have democratic republics, and were beaten and oppressed for their faith. It was much worse than someone we don’t like being nominated and having to consider voting for a third party.
You didn’t choose your parents, geography, or time in history to be born. This means that because we seek the redemption and reconciliation of all things on this earth, our families, our communities, our jobs, and our country are part of our responsibility as Christians to be in the work of redeeming. God can use whatever means he wants to direct the nations, but perhaps in the United States more than anywhere else politically, we have the opportunity to let our faith be an influencing factor through which he chooses to work. (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The Biblical Perspective
When we look at scripture holistically and in context, we see verses that actually encourage Christian participation in government. We see Christ’s command to pay taxes in Matthew 22:2223 (If we really believe our citizenship is in heaven, why not encourage our congregations not to pay taxes?). We see Paul invoking his rights as a Roman citizen and using the court system to spread the Gospel (Acts 16:3539, 22:2529, chapters 2226). And we see throughout the Old and New Testament that we should be about justice for all, which almost exclusively comes through involvement with the government!
William Wilberforce was an Englishman who lived from 17591833. After becoming a member of the British parliament, he converted to Christianity and for a time contemplated leaving politics to pursue liturgical involvement with the church. Fulltime ministry, anyone?
However, some of his close friends persuaded him that both could be used together, and the result was that Wilberforce dedicated himself to the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of the moral conscience of society.
For the next 45 years Wilberforce would seek the abolition of the slaves in England as well as other public vices such as cruelty to animals and prostitution. He would hear of the success of the abolition movement only three days before his death. Wilberforce pursued first when there was no support for abolition. He continued to propose it during wartime and was thus at times socially accused of treason and sedition, and gave his health to the cause through constant advocacy and stress.
The Gospel informed Wilberforce’s campaigns, though every argument did not require scripture references. The principles of scripture have practical consequences on society. By pursuing these principles, society can be benefited because it will align more with the actual reality of how the world works. Wilberforce spearheaded the end of slavery in England because of Christian principles. He persevered for decades in his pursuits because he loved his country and was not willing to be passive about the trajectory of her people.
Your Duty: The Redemption of Citizenship
As Christians who believe God has sovereignly placed us in the locations and time in history that we have, we have a corresponding responsibility and duty to be good citizens within the allowances of scripture (Romans 13:1, Acts 5:2729). But to do that, we have to understand what a good citizen is.
In short, this means that we must understand our history, rights, and structure of government. The United States was absolutely designed around the involvement of citizens, and consequently, being a good citizen is wrapped up in at least minimal understanding and participation in government. And by the way, posting rants or articles on Facebook doesn’t count.
We have had the opportunity of freedom and we therefore have responsibility to use it wisely. If our culture decides that Christians are a threat instead of a benefit, millions of dollars of aid will dry up, thousands of missionaries will stop going where the Gospel has never been heard, every year religious universities will lose their taxexempt status for donations in their mission of giving Christian education and people will continue to stop being interested in religion because of the prevailing cultural narrative. And there are some who are content to say that increased persecution is the best thing for the church and for our country?
Our political climate will only change for the better when Christians decide to get involved in our communities on every level because politics are a reflection of our culture. We have the ability to play a part in defining justice to our nation. Shouldn’t we, who claim to have truth, be eager to use and spread that truth to our nation rather than cowering in a corner trying to accept tyranny as God’s will?