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Christians as Dual Citizens, part 1

Then Jesus said to them,  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  And they were amazed at him.  –Mark 12:17

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.—Matthew 6:10

As the election cycle heats up both parties address passionate appeals to us as American citizens. They tell us that we have important choices to make about our country’s future, which is true. They tell us that their candidates will lead us to freedom, justice and prosperity, which might be true in part.

Sometimes they invoke almost apocalyptic fears, implying or saying that their party alone can save us from the immorality, total government control and general godlessness which will be unleashed by their opponents. This is dangerous. It encourages us to treat those opponents and their supporters as our enemies, and to seek their defeat by any means possible.

As Christians we are called to remember that, before we are citizens of any nation, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is not limited by boundaries of party or nation. I know of no earthly nation which has even attempted to live according to God’s laws of neighbor-love, peaceableness toward enemies, forgiveness of debts and wrongs, free giving to those who are in need, truthfulness in word and deed, and fidelity not to self-interest or institutional survival, but to God’s will.

These laws cannot be imposed on others by force or financial pressure or even majority rule. But to follow Christ is to hold ourselves accountable to these laws, first and foremost, and not to break them in our attempts to shore up our party or our country, or to influence earthly laws.

I don’t mean that Christians have no concern with politics. Neighbor-love and care for God’s creation must be incarnated in our political choices as well as our daily lives. But we must remember that people of good will may have very different understandings of how to make these choices. In our dealings with our fellow Americans we must treat them primarily, not as allies or opponents, but as neighbors before God, fellow citizens of the Kingdom that is in this world but not of it.

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