Our Dual Citizenship
The Christian life is lived in the constant tension of “the now and the not yet.” We live in a sinful, fallen, distorted world, but, in Christ, we have been born again into a new life, a new identity, and new citizenship in Heaven. Unfortunately, while the truth of who we are in Christ and the certainty of God’s promises remain irrevocably true, we still have to struggle through this life of imperfection, injustice, and woe. One of the great maladies of the church in our age—perhaps in any age—is that people tend to try to separate their faith from other areas of life. There can be no gaps, no separations, in the life of the Christian. Living as children of God in Christ cannot ever be a part-time endeavor in which we have “sacred” and “secular” areas. The Lord demands our whole being, not just select parts. We who know Christ recognize Him as Lord of all Creation. He is worthy of worship because He has created all things. (John 1:3, Revelation 4:11). All things were created by Jesus, who is himself the invisible God made visible, and everything holds together in Him. (Colossians 1:15-20) It is Jesus himself, by the very word of His power, that holds the entire universe together. (Hebrews 1:3) As Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” This reality is as true in our civic life as anywhere else. Despite common Christian attempts to separate church and life—including church and politics—such a thing can never really be done. God has made us holistic beings, and he has given us one life to be wholly integrated under His sovereign rule. For every person, our public life is the outworking of our beliefs. In fact, a good functional definition of “religion”, in a proper sense, is “the working out of one’s relationship with God, making internal convictions externally manifest.” Such a definition leaves no room to separate “church life” from any other aspect of life. Our faith—that is, our beliefs and convictions about God, His Word, and His world—informs every part of who we are. It must. The things we hold to be eternally true and real will drive our thinking and our values. If they do not, we can hardly claim to honestly believe them. (James 2:14-26) Many issues addressed in public life and debate are pre-political; they are not simply matters of perspective and disagreement over political or economic theory. In the middle of the 19th century, debates and elections constantly centered on the issue of chattel slavery. It was often seen as a “political hot-button” issue. In reality, especially with the benefit of hindsight, we have a nearly universal agreement that viewing other human beings as property to be owned and used is inherently wrong and sinful. It is pre-political…a reality greater than political theories, parties, and debates. We regularly face such pre-political hot buttons today. Many today treat issues of moral evil as matters of partisan differences or political preferences. When we fail to measure our thinking against the eternal truth revealed in the Word of God—or worse, when we allow God’s Word to be distorted, misrepresented, or misappropriated to promote that which God hates and condemns—we betray the Lord we claim to serve. Viewing the world through the lens of our own so-called wisdom rather than through the clarifying lens of Scripture distorts reality and places us in direct conflict with the God of all Creation. Truth is truth, but unity is not uniformity. There is a sprawling variety of issues over which good people are free to disagree. Our Creator has given us individual minds with the capacity to think rationally, because our use of the intellect He has graciously given us reflects His image and brings Him glory. It is good for us to think, even to disagree and debate, but our final allegiance must not be to our own minds; rather, it must be to the Lord’s truth. We endeavor, to the extent that we are able, to approach life (both public and private) as Johannes Kepler approached science; we strive merely to think God’s thoughts after Him. We may disagree over theories, observations, and opinions, but we must be united in our submission to the plain teaching and clear implications of God’s eternal Word. Elections are coming up. Much will be said, claimed, and debated. In the final analysis, Christians must vote “Christianly”. We must engage our world with a kind of dual citizenship. We were born here and continue to live in this world, but, in our rebirth by faith in Jesus Christ, we became citizens of God’s Kingdom. Now we serve as ambassadors of that Kingdom, representing our King’s priorities in the land of our birth. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Following his conversion, Chuck Colson was known to say that, “The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One.” In other words, the real issues of life cannot ultimately be solved by any government interventions. Christians are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), but, as Jesus clearly taught us, our Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Our mission is higher and greater; it is eternal. Nonetheless, we are here, and God has called us to influence the world around us for His glory, in accordance with His character. We must not conflate the church and the culture, but we must also not neglect the relationship between them. Let us do all we can as responsible citizens of our community, our state, our nation, to shine the light of Christ in a dark place. We do this in every aspect of life, including the polling booth, by reflecting the reality of Christ through relationships.