What does it mean for Christians to be good citizens? Jesus gives us a glimpse in Matthew 22 as He turns back the Pharisees attempt to trap him. The Pharisees asked, “Tell us, therefore what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” After asking for a coin and verifying the picture on the coin Jesus said, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” In this statement, Jesus acknowledged that we Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God but we must also live by the laws of the kingdom of man.
Paul echoed this theme when he referred to believers as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor.5:20), and in Romans when he said, “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).
As human beings we are citizens of the United States. As born again believers bound for heaven we are pilgrims on a journey, merely passing through this world on our way to our eternal home. But as we pass through, we must be ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is someone whose home is one country but they reside in another country. They are bound both by the laws of the country of their origin and by the country they are visiting. But an ambassador is more than just a visitor. He or she is a representative of the King. Jesus is our King and as long as we are passing through this world we must represent Him with honor.
In his First Inaugural Address, George Washington made an extraordinary claim. He said that the foundation of United States public policy would be the individual morality of its citizens. Specifically, Washington said, “The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality.” He went on to explain, “their exists in the economy and discourse of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.” Washington, with these words, harkened back to the Declaration of Independence where life and liberty were laid as a foundation for those who longed to pursue happiness.
In his new book, The Tyranny of Clichés Jonah Goldberg sites President Woodrow Wilson as an example of the opposite of Washington’s sentiment about the place and consistency of American morality. Goldberg writes, “He was also the first president to hold that the president must have a vision for re-forming the United States. To that end, an enlightened Constitution must conform to those charged with imposing that vision, not the other way around. The pursuit of happiness was no longer an individual right but a state-driven agenda to be foisted upon a once free people.” President Wilson argued that, “Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice.” He also openly proclaimed that the Bill of Rights is a dead-letter relic and those who think otherwise are simply, “bound up in mere Fourth of July sentiments.” Well pass me some firecrackers and call me a patriot because I still believe the principles revealed and applied in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Word of God are the right foundation for a free republic.
God has blessed our country with a form of government known as a Constitutional Republic. If we were a pure democracy we would be at the mercy of the majority. But because we are a Republic we have a representative government that protects the rights of those who find their opinions in the minority.
In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us our role as ambassadors. We are to be salt and light to all who are within our sphere of influence. That means we should know what is going on in our world and seek to influence the culture for good. In other words, we should be the best citizens of this world so that we can both shine as lights in the darkness and shout the goodness of God into eternity.
In a few short months we will go to the polls to select our leader. May we be reminded that we should exercise our right to vote with both the values of heaven and the restoration of our culture in mind.