Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Foremost Duty of Christian Citizens

In the July Fourth edition of Chuck Colson's Breakpoint Commentary, he addresses a very sensitive topic. The Cross and the Flag attempts to give the true Biblical response to the two extreme positions held by most when it comes to contemplating a Christian's duty as citizens of a country of this world system.

  • "In the United States, Christians have all too often vacillated between two extremes—the God-and-country, wrap-the-flag-around-the-cross mentality or on the other hand, the simply passing-through mindset.
  • The former was illustrated a century ago by the president of Amherst College. He said that the nation had achieved the "true American union, that sort of union which makes every patriot a Christian and every Christian a patriot." This form of civil religion is supported by politicians who welcome it as a prop for the state, and by Christians who see it as enshrining the fulfillment of the vision of the early pilgrims.
  • The passing-through mindset is represented by those who believe they are simply sojourners with loyalties only in the Kingdom beyond. They believe that faith is an entirely private matter, and that they are under no obligation to the community or country in which God has placed them."

Colson then proceeds to present what is considered to be a modified, though biblical, balance of the two extremes as summarized in this statment.

  • "The Christian position is beautifully balanced. On one hand, we don't deify our country. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and that's where our ultimate allegiance is.
    But the only place for expressing that allegiance is in the concrete loyalties God calls us to here on earth—including loyalty to country. We can't love mankind in the abstract; we can only really love people in the particular, concrete relationships God has placed us in—our family, our church, our community, our nation."

I'm afraid I must radically part ways with the words and ideas of Mr Colson on this subject. Is it because I have a particular political agenda that I'm pursuing? A resounding Yes! I do have a distinct political agenda, one reflected from the pages of Scripture. And it starts with one of the political extremes Mr Colson refers to, that of only passing through. While it is true that we are only passing through, Holy Writ reveals an ample amount of detail as to how that 'passing through' is to be conducted. Surprisingly, it is not as an isolated exile, but something interestingly more.

The Scripture references which detail this conduct include Hebrews 11:13, where the Old Testament saints "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth." The word translated strangers literally means "alien" and the word translated pilgrim means "resident alien." In other words, we are foreigners on this earth. The next Scripture reference comes from the Apostle Peter when he tells the "strangers" (resident aliens - I Peter 1:1) to submit themselves to the King and all governing authorities as well as the laws they pass. Furthermore, Peter tells us to do this in the capacity of "stangers and pilgrims" (I Peter 2:11), not as birthright citizens.

The significance of the People of God living our lives as foreigners is seen in the fact that a foreigner has no original stake within his land of foreign sojourn. His rights are limited by law, because his land of birth is elsewhere. All rights while in a foreign land are prescribed by law and generally do not rise to the level of a natural born citizen. This creates a distinct difference between the foreigner or resident alien and the natural born citizen.

Another significance of the People of God living our lives as foreigners is seen when the Apostle Paul says that we are Ambassadors for Christ. An Ambassador is one who is sent by one country to represent the interests of their home country to a foreign country. An Ambassador is always a foreigner in relation to the country he or she is sent to. It is impossible for the citizen of one country to be an Ambassador to his or her own country.

As a foreign Ambassador of Christ, it is our foremost duty to present His official word of reconcilation to the lost citizens of this world system. Herein lies the basis for "concrete relationships" around us. The citizens of this world, whether they be family, community or nation, need to hear how Christ has made provision for them to transfer their political citizenship and allegiance from their present country to an entirely new one, what Peter refers to as "an holy nation" (I Peter 2:9). Nowhere are we commanded or even encouraged to enter the political arena of this world in order to promote the claims of Christ. In fact, you find none of the Apostles of Christ advocating such activity for others because Jesus had already told them that the World hated Him and the World would hate them also. Neither do you find them engaging in such a pursuit. Even Paul, who by birth possessed the highest form of Roman citizenship (by birth), failed to apply the benefits of that citizenship except to save his life or to preach the gospel. In fact, on at least two occasions, they were one and the same. He always conducted himself as a foreigner on this earth, just as the saints of old did.

In no way does this leave us with a vacuum of political activity. God's People have a variety of needs and concerns which Christ has delegated specific authority to address. This authority descends directly from the Throne of Heaven itself, from which also derives our citizenship, and carries with it political duties for the foreign Ambassadors living on this earth as heavenly citizens. Not known widely to many, this arrangement is specifically reflected in American Law. God has graciously seen to it that in this country at least, He has provided His People the legal means to carry out His political concerns among His Kingdom citizens. All others are considered foreigners! That is an eternally concrete reality!

So, on this Holy Day of the United States of America, wherein is remembered the actions of a select group of men when they chose rebellious independence from British authority, remember that the Children of God possess a political inheritance of much greater value, Dependence upon the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For it is this Declaration of Dependence alone which provides us the rich blessings of Eternal Liberty!

The World has never seen such Politics!

Post a Comment