I have identified four duties that Christians have in order to contribute to the restoration of good government. As Christians we hold duel citizenship…the kingdom of God and this planet Earth. We have responsibilities to both. The four that I will make commentary on are: Pray, Know and Judge, Speak up and speak out, and Take action. Some may think that I am ‘out of bounds’ when I speak of these in combination as Christian responsibilities but let’s see if I’m really that much in ‘left field’.
Duty #1: Pray. As with the directive to read the Bible, the duty to pray likewise seems to smack of patronizingly shallow religious platitudes. But not so, at least, not if done Biblically rather than in the casual and haphazard manner with which prayer is often handled today. There is no shortage of things to pray for, especially those things for which the Bible explicitly tells us to pray. Psalm 122:6 commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem; John 17:20-23, pray for unity among believers; and Matthew 9:37-38, where Jesus tells us to pray for more workers to participate in God’s harvest. However, 1 Timothy 2:1-2 commands that we pray “first of all” for all people, especially for leaders and those in authority. God elevates nothing else to the level of “first of all” in our prayer lives…except in the governmental arena. Thus, we have a God-mandated duty to pray “first” for our government. Significantly, our heart will always be turned to whatever we faithfully pray for, whether the peace and prosperity of Israel, the unity of the Church, mores workers in God’s kingdom…or our own government. God thus commands us to pray for government, fully knowing that this will properly point our hearts and attention in that direction. But while prayer is an important Biblical directive, we cannot stop there. As John Hancock urged Christians in his generation:”I conjure you, by all that is dear, by all that is honorable, by all that is sacred, not only that ye pray, but that ye act”. [John Hancock, quoted in David Brewer, The World’s Best Orations: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, vol. 6, St Louis: Ferd P. Kaiser, 1900, pg.2399]. So beyond prayer, what are some of our other duties?
Duty #2: Know and Judge: The Bible directs that we are to “examine everything; hold fast to that which is good”. [1 Thess. 5:21]. Numerous verses convey the same message: believers are to examine, evaluate, and judge what goes on around them. [Matt. 7:16-20; Luke 6:44-46; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3]. This applies not merely to “spiritual” things but to every aspect of life and culture…including the political realm. John Adams declared: “We Electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands: We have a check upon two branches of the legislature…It becomes necessary to every subject [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman: and to examine and judge for himself …the…political principles and measures. Let us examine them with a sober…Christian spirit.” [Adams, Papers, vol. 1, pg. 81, emphasis in original]. Christians have a duty to judge every “political principle and measure” from a Biblical point of view. This is why all restoration begins with reading and knowing the Bible; you can’t judge measures against the Bible if you don’t know what the Bible says about those measures. Christians seem to have lost , or, perhaps more accurately, willfully abandoned, the concept of individual civic stewardship they once so strongly embraced…the concept that Christian leaders such as Founding Father Benjamin Rush clearly articulated: “Every citizen of a republic…must watch for the state, as if its liberties depended upon his vigilance alone.” [Rush, Essays, pgs. 10-11]
Duty #3: Speak Up and Speak Out. Once you have performed your duty to examine public measures against Biblical standards, you then have the non-optional duty to tell others what you have found…especially if you have discovered something that is anti-Biblical or will be harmful to individuals or the nation. Ezekiel 3:16-21 makes clear that if we do not clearly warn others of what God has said is right and wrong and that if those others wander off the path, then we ourselves will be held personally accountable. Leviticus 5:1 similarly talks about the sin of silence and Proverbs 24:11-12 likewise declares that if we see someone headed down the wrong path and remain silent, making the excuse that we didn’t know anything was going on, then we will individually be held responsible. Silence is not an option for a Biblical Christian. The lesson of Aaron in Numbers 20:9-12 tells about the penalties associated with silence. Moses in a fit of anger at the complaining of the people coming out of Egypt, committed a profound sin. He exploded, “Listen, you rebels!…Must we bring you water from this rock?” [v.10]. It was God that brought water from the rock, not “we”. For that sin God did not let Moses enter the Promised Land. He then withheld the same privilege from Aaron. Why? Aaron had said nothing sinful. The problem was that Aaron said nothing at all. Aaron did not confront or correct Moses’ sin. Remaining silent costs Aaron entry into the Promised Land.
Biblical Christians have a duty to speak truth and to speak it clearly, sometimes to affirm and educate and sometimes to confront. American culture is dying because too many Christians and pastors in church pulpits refuse to boldly speak truth about the issues occurring around them. For example, Romans 1:32 unequivocally states that God does not approve of homosexuality and that He also does not approve of those who do approve of homosexuality. The same applies with those who now believe that sex outside of marriage, or divorce, or abortion are “moral”. Standing up and speaking out may be difficult and may not be well received by others, especially if what you say contradicts something they might be doing or believing at the time. This is why it is a duty, for by definition it involves doing what is right even when it is uncomfortable to do so.
Next week we will look at Duty #4: Take Action.
– Bob Munsey