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.