Heavenly citizenship extends to our earthly political engagement

by Kathryn Freeman on January 3, 2019 in CLC

During his keynote at our 2017 Advocacy Day, Dr. Vincent Bacote, a Christian ethicist and professor at Wheaton College, said, “people’s lives as disciples ought to matter every hour of the week.” Dr. Bacote argued that our Christian discipleship should include every aspect of our lives including our political engagement, but many of us struggle to bring our politics under the full authority of Jesus Christ and Scripture.

We often compartmentalize our lives as Christians. We give the Lord dominion over our lives for two hours on Sunday, but our money, our votes, our families belong to us. Even as we declare Jesus Christ as Lord, we treat Him as if the boundaries of His kingdom extend only as far as we are comfortable. But, citizens do not declare national boundaries, the boundaries of our country are determined by those in elected authority.  Christians are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and if we declare Jesus Christ is Lord, He determines the boundaries (Colossians 1).

Scottish missiologist, Lesslie Newbigin puts its this way, “[t]he confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ implies a commitment to make good that confession in relation to the whole life of the world — its philosophy, its culture, and its politics no less than the personal lives of its people.”

While our citizenship is ultimately in heaven, our heavenly citizenship should inform our earthly one. This is not a plea for theocracy; it is a plea for Christian principles to inform how you think about policy issues and political engagement. America is not a Christian nation, our Founding Fathers intentionally included language in the Constitution prohibiting a religious test for federal elected office.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the religious freedom of American citizens by prohibiting the government from establishing a religion and restraining the free exercise of religions. Thomas Jefferson said religious freedom is meant to protect “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo [sic] and Infidel of every denomination.”

We live in a religiously plural republic, but Christian political engagement should reflect our lives as followers of Christ.  In an increasingly partisan age, it is important to remember we do not wage war as the world does (2 Corinthians 10:3). Our primary task is not political point scoring, crushing our opponents, or angling for personal advantage, our primary task is the Great Commission. As disciples of Christ, our political engagement should should promote truth (2 John 1:4), serve humbly (Ephesians 4:2-3), prioritize the vulnerable (Jeremiah 22:3), be kind and gentle (Galatians 5:22-23), and pursue peace and justice (Matthew 5:9, Isaiah 1:17).

We cannot make our elected officials do everything the Bible commands us to do as individuals, but the government clearly has a role to play in the restraint of evil and the biblical pursuit of justice (Romans 13, Isaiah 58, Psalms 72:1-2, Proverbes 8:15).

For instance, James 1:27 says, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress” (NRSV). Since most orphans are wards of the state, part of our care for them would be engaging our state leaders to enact policies that improve the lives of foster children, their foster families, or extended relatives who step in to care for them when their biological parents cannot. One example of this was the CLC’s work last session on HB 4, which among many other foster care reform initiatives created a monthly payment for low-income kinship families.

Foster care is just one of the CLC’s legislative priorities for the 86th Legislative Session, we will also give attention to criminal justice reform, public education, immigration, pro-life initiatives, religious liberty, gambling, payday lending, and maternal health. Our public policy engagement is informed by biblical principles and is non-partisan. No political party fully embodies Christ’s call on our lives, but there are issues where we can work with our elected officials in order to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

Justice has a public component that many times requires engaging our elected officials. Our political engagement is a significant part of our lives as disciples. We are called to pursue justice for our neighbors, the poor, immigrants, orphans, widows, and the defenseless. Our declaration of “Jesus is Lord” means something beyond our personal and private lives, it is a public declaration that nothing is beyond the boundaries of our heavenly citizenship including our engagement with earthly authorities.

I invite you to learn more about the CLC and our advocacy by attending our 2019 Advocacy Day event featuring former George W. Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson and a host of leading Christian public policy thinkers.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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