In The American President, a movie I’ve always loved, Michael Douglas offers the climactic line: “America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, cause it's gonna put up a fight.”
Citizenship in the United States requires more than sitting and watching. It’s a thinking sport. Americans sit at the confluence of the global political economy and local school board. Our votes influence both the world stage and our communities at home. Representative democracy is built on the votes cast by normal citizens.
The apostle Paul speaks on the role of government in his famous letter to the Christian citizens in Rome. He writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1).
The Father calls His children to sit under the authority of governments that He personally institutes. Some who follow Christ sit under dictators, and others are subject to kings and queens. Believers in the United States are governed by the authority of a republic, one in which they also participate.
Christians are called by God to participate in the political process because American government doesn’t function without the participation of its people. So how does a Christian navigate the privilege of a democratic society? I’ll steal a line from The American President and call it “advanced citizenship.”
Our citizenship is advanced because it’s a dual citizenship. We have a foot in two worlds – the world we live in and the city to come.
We long for our eternal world, devoid of suffering and scandal, where justice rolls on like a river, where love undergirds all relationships and selflessness is the basis of all transactions. This is the city of our great King Jesus, and His redeemed have the sureness of a future arrival.
Yet we clearly haven’t arrived to this city, and Jesus compels us to see that He hasn’t called us out of mission in the world (John 17:1-36). We are citizens of the United States, with the privilege to vote in a way that reflects the character and worthiness of our God.
As Christians, we can take courage knowing that biblical principles give life and that true welfare is advanced through laws that accord with God’s Word. Daniel’s gospel influence on the pagan government of Babylon models our participation well. He tells Nebuchadnezzar to break off his sin, practice righteousness and show mercy to the oppressed (Dan. 4:27).
In being created in the image of God, Christ-followers are called to accentuate the dignity of humanity, casting our vote for people and policies that uphold justice and protect the rights of the oppressed. God has been kind throughout history to bless the political efforts of His children in procuring human rights for them. History also shows that Christians have often led the way in many great efforts. As Christians, we have the distinct privilege of exhibiting the life of Christ by counting others more significant than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).
With November elections on the horizon, right now is the time for us to prepare our hearts and minds to be advanced citizens. Study the issues and the implications. Learn about those who hope to represent you. We are uniquely blessed to honor our Creator by participating in the government established by Him.