Citizens of two kingdoms
Christians are citizens of two kingdoms: the church (i.e. the kingdom of God) and the state (i.e. civil government).
The kingdom of God is the ruling activity of Christ in the hearts of believers (Luke 17:21). Our citizenship in this kingdom began when the Holy Spirit worked faith in our hearts through the gospel in Word and sacrament.
Most of us became citizens of the state when we were born. The state uses the tool of reason to maintain order and protect its citizens.
Though our membership in the church is far more important, we have a responsibility to submit to the governing authorities since they are established by God (Romans 13:1). What a blessing that in our government, we have a voice to determine who we want setting policies for us! Certainly our Christian faith will guide us in our choice.
Is there a Christian party?
God is not a Republican. God is also not a Democrat. Correctly understood, he is independent of any political leaning. Those are terms that pertain to our citizenship in the state, not the church. We need to be careful that we do not give the impression that there is only one political party for a Christian. No party is perfect. Rather, as citizens of the state, Christians will be guided by God’s Word and seek the good of their neighbors (Galatians 6:10), even with the choice of candidate for public office.
Two Christians can disagree on which candidate will best serve their neighbors. No candidate is perfect, and so Christians must use reason guided by the Word to make a choice.
Take for example, abortion. Abortion is murder. Therefore, one Christian may decide that opposing abortion is the most important consideration and cast a vote for a candidate who opposes abortion despite that person’s failings in other areas of policy. I know dear Christians who vote this way. Another Christian may reason differently. This person may support a pro-choice candidate because this Christian decides that the government will not change the laws about abortion in the terms of either candidate, but the pro-choice candidate will do a better job of improving the healthcare, education, and welfare support of those in the greatest need. That may result in cutting down on the number of abortions performed. I know dear Christians who vote this way as well.
Which is right? Since there is no perfect choice, both can be right as they seek to give God glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and serve their neighbor.
Remember what changes hearts
Laws that protect all of the state’s citizens are important. But remember that we can make all the laws in the world, but if people’s hearts and minds are unconvinced to follow them, laws do no good. To change hearts, you must convince them at their core. Laws do not change hearts; the gospel does (Romans 1:16).
A few years ago, Brazil’s government tightened restrictions on legal abortions. Did the law change peoples’ attitudes? No. Mothers carrying their apparently unwanted children were still outside picketing for abortion rights.
What is the one thing that can change hearts? The truth of God’s Word. Not picket signs, not legislation, not the right people in office. It is you and me, holding out God’s loving hand of truth and proclaiming what he’s done for us. Then the Holy Spirit can change some hearts.
God be with you as you decide for whom you should vote.
Author: David Scharf
Volume 107, Number 10
Issue: October 2020