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The Character of Citizenship

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Is our social conscientiousness in action.

Citizenship is our social conscientiousness in action for the management and tempering of our personal freedoms and liberties on behalf of the greater good of civil peace and prosperity. It is defined as being a good citizen by being a good Christian in our place of dwelling. It sees those in civic leadership as God's representatives, whose occupation is for the benefit of society in general thus, also benefiting the Church. It is expressed as Patriotism and Loyalty in honor of one's Nationality (Numbers 27:18- 23; Joshua 1:16; Esther 2:21-23; Proverbs 25:15; Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-21; Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:11-17).

Disloyalty, Unfaithfulness, Untrustworthiness, and Misguided Strong Views are the opposites. When we do not seek to honor our leaders and government, we are fighting against God and His representatives. These misguided traits will cause undue persecutions to the Church and misrepresentations of our Lord. It is the unworthiness from our sinful nature that refuses to bow down to godly authority!

God is calling us to be good citizens no matter what government "controls" us. We are called to obey the will of God; this, as hard as it is to take, is the will of God, no matter what the qualifications or spirituality of the leadership. Being a good Citizen is about our liberty, our freedom in Christ, and being responsible with it (Prov. 8:15; Dan. 2:21). Christ's work has freed us, but that does not mean we can do whatever we please.

In Romans 13, Paul strongly argues that we should honor and be in subjection to the political leadership, and pay taxes without complaint. "Oh, my gosh!" you may say, as I did when I first read that. But, look at it this way; as Christians, our citizenship is in Heaven. Our principle home is not here; our ownership is not here; they are in eternity to come. However, this does not negate our responsibility to the government and the land in which we live. So, we are to model His character here, regardless of the cost. In so doing, we are also honoring God because He established the civic leaders and even brought them to power for His purpose and glory. Accordingly, we should not minimize our duty to be involved in civic functions when we can, modeling His character because it is our duty and responsibility to respect others' authority on earth. Therefore, as good Christians showing his Way, we can respect our leaders, get involved in civic activities and politics and even joyfully pay our taxes. Taxes can even be a form of devotion to God, because submission to rule is divinely ordered. So, be a good citizen and pay your just amount without complaining (Matt: 22:21)! The end result will be more contentment in your life, a better society, and a church with freedoms and more opportunities.

Need more help with this thinking? I know I did: It is God who established the human governments, the systems and the people. God, through His Word, is extolling us to take seriously our responsibility to governing officials, even if we do not like them or disagree with their decisions. Keep in mind that Paul, who penned these words for God, was himself a victim of a government's extreme injustice as he lived and worked in one of history's most oppressive governments ever. Yet, he says we must still have responsibility and respect for them! Even though our true home is still to come in eternity, we are still to participate with our best in our temporary home here (Prov. 8:15; Dan. 2:21).

The ingredients that make a good Christian should also make a good citizen! Being a good civic person from biblical precepts means we are to respect the office, even if we do not like who is in power. We are also to respect the police and other authorities as well as pray and support them. Since God brought in governments and their representatives, as we respect and honor God, we will respect and honor government! This means we are not to fear the police, jail, civil punishment, or see traffic tickets and increased insurance as our motivation; we are to fear God, and then His decrees, including authorities, so we can act responsibly (Acts 4:18-31; 5:17-29).

We must respect and keep those in power in prayer! We may not agree with the politics of the day, or the evil and persecution, yet we are still to model Christ in love. We are to get involved, vote, and make our voice known just as the American Revolutionaries did in the 18th century. They demonstrated that we are to glorify Christ by being model citizens on earth, which prepares us to be model citizens in Heaven (Matt. 22:15-21; Acts 25:11; 1 Pet. 2:1-17). Also, when things are wrong or bad, we have the responsibly to do something about it, even if it means we lose what we have on this earth, including our lives.

We are never to violate the law of God (Matt. 22:21; Acts 4:19; 5:29). In the same manner, the church must never exercise the role of governor. The Church is to comment on its moral level and policies through God's Word in love, but never set those policies. It is OK and necessary for Christians to participate in government, but it is not OK for the Church. Calvin's Geneva failed miserably as did the Holy Roman Empire. Both of these governments started out right, but became corrupted soon and fast, and that corruption reached into and from the Church. Calvin himself had to flee with his life from the very government he helped, in principle, set up (most historians say he was forced into it)! Political action committees from church and par-church organizations must never represent the Church, only themselves as their government's citizens!

Keep in mind that God is the One who appoints leaders. He is still sovereign, even when a Nero or a Hitler is running things. Since God is still ultimately in charge, there is a greater work going on that we do not see or understand (Rev. 10: 8-11). The leaders will be held accountable for their ways, whether good or evil; we are to remain faithful to God and show our love for Him by being respectful to others around us. If we keep up the Fruit, they will see His love in us; love does drive out fear (1 John 4:18). Foolishness and the misdirection of government authorities will be more frustrated by good examples than by terrorist hostilities (Rom. 13:1-7). By being a good example and by ethics, Christians can prove they (we) are not the evil that our government may think, or the haters and revolutionaries of which we are accused. By remaining good examples, the early Christians showed support for the Roman government. Thus, persecution was frustrated in many, many cases as such threats and gossip fell on deaf ears! And, as John pointed out in Revelation, such an evil government will be severely judged.

Being a good Citizen is about being submissive; it is a call to voluntarily submit, even though you are not required to do so. Submission is respect, and thus is not to exceed the parameters of the will of God or of love and righteousness (Ephesians 5:21-22; 1 Peter 3:1; 5:5). God establishes and is the authority, and He gets the glory. For this reason, Christ is extolled; His name and reputation remain good, shown in good light, because we are His windows to the world! When we are submitting to others, we are submitting and serving Christ as Lord (Col. 3:23-24)! When we disobey the government, we are disobeying God who set up those people in their leadership positions (Ex. 22:28; 1 Kings 21:10; Prov. 16:10; 21:1; 24:21; Rom. 13:1-7).

Imagine if the people in Palestine would stop their violence against the Jewish government and begin a campaign to show the Fruit of the Spirit? The Jewish officials would have no reason to retaliate, no reason to build a wall, no reason to oppress them. The Palestinians would be in a position to negotiate for freedoms and privileges that the Jewish citizens get-a higher standard of living, an end to "Fourth World" living conditions, an end to preventable disease and hunger, and clean, nice, affordable housing. However, the problem of the violence continues; thus, the problems do not go away, but rather escalate. Consequently, being a good citizen is seeing things from God's perspective with compassion, understanding, responsibility, and respect. We practice our faith by participating, cooperating, staying informed, and voting. We are also to be good neighbors, obeying local and national laws and rules, protecting the environment,and respecting people in authority.

Is the Character of Citizenship working in you?

Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character and fruit of Good Citizenship from God's most precious Word by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:

1.How do I exhibit good Citizenship in my daily life?

2.What can I do to develop a better willingness to pursue being a good Citizen?

3.What blocks good Citizenship from working and being exhibited in me?

4.How can I make good Citizenship function better, stronger, and faster even in times of uncertainty and stress?

· Here are positive examples from Scripture: Exodus 22:28; Proverbs 16:14-15; 25:15; 24:21; Eccl. 10:4; Acts 23:5; 1 Timothy 2:1-2

· Here are negative examples from Scripture: Numbers 16:1-35; 26:9; 2 Samuel 15:10-13; Ezra 7:26; Proverbs 17:11; 25:6-7; 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Further Questions

1. How would you define good Citizenship? What do you think is important about being a good citizen?

2. What are some things that cause you not to vote or be involved in civic affairs, actions to which we are called?

3. How does apathy counteract good Citizenship? How can you be discerning in what to do when a government is bad or in showing respect for our authorities?

4. What happens to our relationships with God and community when we refuse to put forth effort and/or resources to build a good government, or we fail to participate?

5. When have you been filled with good Citizenship the most? How can respect for our leaders, involvement in civic activities and politics, and even joyfully paying our taxes help us to be more content? How can good Citizenship build a better society as well as a church with freedoms and more opportunities?

6. In what situation did you fail to be motivated with good Citizenship when you should have been?

7. What issue is in your life that would improve with good Citizenship? How would government authorities be more frustrated by our good example than by our hostilities?

8. Think through the steps you need to take to put good Citizenship into action in a specific instance, such as motivating yourself to vote and/or volunteer involvement in your local civic functions? How can you and your church remain faithful to God, show your respect to those in authority, or take seriously your responsibility to governing officials, even if you do not like them or disagree with their decisions? By being good Christians showing his Way, we can…?

© 2006, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership,
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