The Conflict of Dual Citizenship

Vote 12345

Vote 12345 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:2 (NLT)

As I continuously make my way through God’s Message, I am repeatedly amazed at the lack of discussion around certain things. Slavery, for example, is accepted as a way of life. There is no call to action against it, merely an admonishment towards individuals to conduct themselves properly in their roles and relationships within it. Politics is another subject on which Jesus, and eventually the fathers of the church, had little to say.

The time and place that Jesus lived and taught was a period of Roman occupation. The same was true of the Greek towns where Paul established small communities of Jesus followers. The political landscape was boiling with political zealots seeking to throw off the chains of Rome’s political and fiscal persecution. Jesus said very little about it, other than to deal one-on-one with those who were embroiled in the controversy one way or another. In those situations he concerned himself, not with their politics or nationality, but with their faith and relationship with God. Jesus said nothing of politics, he spoke only of our heart condition, our relationship with God, our resulting behavior towards others, and the Kingdom of God.

The type of representative republic in which I live was unheard of in Jesus’ day. A common man having citizenship, a vote, and the right of free speech was unthinkable. Living in America, or any other free country in the world, we have rights and responsibilities that simply didn’t exist in Jesus’ day. Therein lies the rub. I often struggle with the notion of how my faith and my political opinions are to coexist as a follower of Jesus. After many years of the journey I have come to decide on a few basics to guide my way…

  • My first responsibility is to love, both in word and action, every person regardless of their social standing, race, creed, color, nationality, or political views. If my political views become an obstacle to love, then my politics have taken too great a place in my heart, mind and life.
  • My second responsibility, because I am to be led and motivated by love, is to pray for those in earthly authority over me, no matter who that is or how much a agree or disagree with their political views and actions.
  • My primary citizenship is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God’s priorities are with eternal matters of life and the heart in individuals. If my citizenship in the country where I live, my political views, and my political interests in this world erodes or creates obstacles to faith, love and individual relationships, then I have misplaced my priorities.
  • As a citizen with rights, I should faithfully and prayerfully exercise my right to vote with clarity of conscience, allowing for others to differ in their opinions (even fellow believers) and not allowing it to create anger or division between us.

These thoughts have come to greater clarity in my heart over a long period of time and through many elections, political discussions, and personal experiences. I never want to diminish my rights and responsibilities as a citizen of a representative republic, but I never want my citizenship to a government of this Earth to trump my greater responsibilities to the eternal Kingdom of God.

About Tom Vander Well

Wayfarer, husband, father, consultant, thespian, writer, thinker, and back porch musician. Pressing on through the journey one step at a time.
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8 Responses to The Conflict of Dual Citizenship

  1. Wow. I just read Romans 13 this morning and asked myself how that fit in with my being politically active. After 30 years in public policy I’m taking time to focus elsewhere. This was a great affirmation. Thanks!

  2. Jen says:

    Great word for today, Tom. What happens in my own house is way more important than what happens in the White House!

  3. It appears there is not much conflict in your dual citizenship. With Jesus, since he was a prophet as well as a king, there was a lot of conflict with the ruling authorities–especially the scribes and Pharisees, commonly described as “religious” leaders but in fact were authorities of the law of Moses (the constitution for Israel), whose political control over much of Jewish daily life was tolerated by the Romans. Even Paul was a prophet, and his words in Rom. 13 are often misunderstood as a general show of support for political authorities; his general view of such leaders (and people in general) is, however, found earlier in a passage like Rom. 1:18-32.

  4. I’ve found that I have an almost impossible time getting involved in politics and NOT turning into someone I don’t want to be. I try to avoid them wherever possible. Some may consider me to be irresponsible for doing so, others may consider me ignorant–and indeed to a certain extent I am regarding the political goings-on of the day–but I’d rather focus on drawing close to God and letting His Spirit guide me when it comes to political participation. Because the more I read the news and try to stay up-to-date on everything, the less joyful, more angry, and hard-hearted I become. Love is key. No matter what side of the fence you’re on.

    • I agree. I feel like the internet has moved our culture even further away from honest, respectful discourse because we can anonymously purge our darkest thoughts and angry epithets toward the other political side from behind a firewall. Sad.

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