A compelling witness of citizenship

Mar 14, 2018 by

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In a country torn apart by political turmoil, Christians need to stand up and disrespect and demonize the government. If we are going to create real change, this is justified and necessary. Wait, is that what Scripture teaches? Often, it appears so, judging by the attitude of many who profess to follow Jesus.

Yet, Jesus has called his followers to respond differently, and we either tarnish or demonstrate our heavenly citizenship by our conduct as earthly citizens. God calls us to honor kings, pay taxes, obey the laws of the land (if they do not violate the law of God), earnestly pray and be a prophetic voice. This is the dynamic paradigm in which we present a compelling testimony of Jesus’ kingship to the fallen nations.

Honoring those in high positions

Article 19 of the 1963 Mennonite Confession of Faith starts by stating “we believe that the state is ordained of God to maintain law and order.” Whether we deem them good or evil, God has appointed the authorities of earthly nations. Therefore, Christians are commanded to honor those in authority.

During the administration of Barack Obama, I heard countless demeaning and racist jokes about our president by professing Christians. This is a poor testimony. While we should have been disturbed by many Obama-administration policies, personal attacks were never justified. The same holds true living under the administration of Donald Trump. Our society revels in making politicians and police officers the punch line of their jokes; Christians can’t condone this sinful behavior, but must honor those who are in high positions.

Exemplary citizens

In every way, Christians should strive to be exemplary citizens. One of the easiest ways to sin against our government is tax evasion. As a young man, I was tempted twice to fabricate the selling price of a vehicle for tax benefits. The first time, I failed this test, but by the grace of God I was later shown my sin and repented, and I did not commit this sin the second time. It is disturbing when Christians fabricate truth in order to avoid paying taxes. Evading taxes we rightfully owe is dishonest and blemishes our Christian testimony. It is a symptom of a heart set on earthly gain rather than eternal. If you desire to live with eternity in view, don’t fabricate truth for any price.

I know it is easy to become frustrated with the amount of laws in our country. Nevertheless, that is not a valid reason to disobey laws. Except in cases of violating God’s law, we must endeavor to uphold the laws of our land.

Furthermore, Christians must pray for our authorities. We often hear this, but does it become a regular part of our prayer life? A good barometer of our attitude toward governing authorities is how often we pray for them. Offering cynical critique is much easier than interceding on their behalf.

A call for prophets

In a recent Sunday School class, my church was studying John the Baptist’s death. I was struck by John’s prophetic witness to Herod. John did not fear the consequences of speaking out against Herod’s gross violation of God’s law. I also think of Paul’s testimony to King Agrippa in Acts 26. Paul boldly proclaimed the gospel to Agrippa and sought to persuade him to the truth. The world needs more prophets with this kind of Spirit-inspired boldness.

Christians are prone to fall into two ditches, quietism or political entanglement. Many Christians just want to live their lives and stay out of the world’s problems. Many more Christians bend over backwards to justify the sinful behavior of politicians if those politicians promote their political agenda. This is a snapshot of how the church loses its prophetic voice; the church cannot be prophetic when we are passive in the world or when we refuse to condemn immorality. Jesus did not have a political agenda; he spoke and lived truth.

No compromise

The witness of Jesus, the Apostles, and many faithful Christians is clear. Truth cannot be compromised in order to gain position within political or societal structures.

I remember being speechless during the 2012 vice presidential debate. Democratic candidate Joe Biden was asked how his Catholic faith informs his view of abortion. Biden argued that he personally holds to the Catholic Church’s pro-life position, but does not allow that to affect his public positions. This kind of compromise is inevitably necessary to operate in many political positions. A follower of Jesus can make no such compromises. Earthly nations simply refuse to tolerate someone who is obedient to God’s Word. Positions within government or society that require violating biblical truth must be rejected by Christians — the end does not justify the means.

Following Jesus as citizens of earthly nations is full of dangers and opportunities. We can become entangled in the political battles of an earthly nation. Or we can confront and serve our nation with lives that are nothing short of Christlike. If we operate in this dynamic paradigm, we will be worthy representatives of our King.

Timothy Miller lives near Sarasota, Fla., with his wife and son, and teaches during the winter at Elnora (Ind.) Bible Institute. This post originally appeared at Radi-Call.

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