Wineskins Archive

January 9, 2014

AfterGlow: Dual Citizenship (Oct 1992)

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by Phillip Morrison
October, 1992

6“If you vote for him, you’ll just lose your vote!” I don’t remember who said it, or which candidate, or even which election was being discussed. I only remember that I was a young boy listening to the conversation of older men, and that it took me many years to realize what I had heard was wrong.

In our society, no vote conscientiously cast can be lost. The value of our voice in government is determined by participation, not by whether our candidate wins or loses.

The man who feared losing his vote was at least a participant. Many Christians did not vote in those days, perhaps convinced by the negative lectures and debates about Christian participation. Though there are still many Christians among the legions who do not vote, that is likely due to apathy or neglect rather than any conviction that voting is wrong.

Jesus’ teaching about rendering unto Caesar and serving two masters may emphasize the separation we should maintain between the sacred and the secular. But he also reminds us that we are citizens of both worlds, with responsibilities to each.

The apostle Paul placed all Christians squarely under the authority of civil government which, he declared, is ordained of God (Romans 13:1-7). Particular governments are not necessarily approved by God, though we should not think it strange when God seems to have special relationships to them. Throughout human history, God has used people and governments – including evil ones – to accomplish his will.

Christians have every right – especially in a democracy – to participate in the selection of leaders and the determination of policies. But we have the greater responsibility to be Christians under whatever kind of government we happen to live. Civil disobedience is a God-honored exception to obeying law (Acts 4:19), but it is to be applied with care only when God’s law and man’s are clearly in conflict.

Governmetn is the oldest unit of society with the exception of the family. Individuals may exist apart from either, but pure individualism can produce neither family nor society. If we are to live together, we must agree to accept the laws which govern our living together. We may all be nice people, but when we arrive at the four-way stop simultaneously, we need some kind of governance to unsnarl the traffic jam.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were the traditionalists who hated Roman rule, while the Herodians were loyal to Rome and its authority. During the last week of Jesus’ life, on his last visit to the temple, just three days before his crucifixion, these opposing forces joined to challenge Jesus. They would not support a common cause, but they would unite against a common foe.

Unfazed by the dilemma they posed, Jesus articulated the dual responsibilities his followers would always have: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17).

The coin Jesus used for his object lesson had Caesar’s image stamped on it, and it belonged to Caesar. God’s image was stamped on us at creation (Genesis 1:26, 27). We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). Therefore we belong to God, and we must present ourselves as living sacrifices unto him (Romans 12:1, 2).

Whether our favorite canidate wins or loses, we live under God-ordained laws which are more important than the will of any individual. And we live under the rule of God, who is Lord of all.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip MorrisonPhillip Morrison was, for many years, managing editor of Wineskins Magazine and wrote the column “AfterGlow” opposite its inside back cover. He was also the former managing editor for Upreach magazine, and worked as a fund-raising consultant and conducted study tours to Bible lands.

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