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ARE YOU A GOOD CITIZEN?
by Philip Owen

            Believers understand, as Paul states, that their “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), or as Peter states perhaps even more strikingly, that they are “aliens and strangers” in this world (I Pet. 2:11).  On several occasions, the Lord made a similar point quite forcefully.  Speaking to His disciples, He declared:  “You will be hated by all because of my name” (Matt. 10:22); “You will be hated by all nations because of my name” (Matt. 24:9); “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18, 19).  And the beloved disciple echoes the same thought:  “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (I John 3:13).

            When such a sharp distinction exists between believers and the world, we might think that “ne”er the twain shall meet” and that God is calling us to isolate ourselves in monasteries or cloisters, or, at the very least, to congregate in communal societies separate from the world.  But the Bible explains that in reality we must live in the world though we are not part of it.

             Furthermore, the Word assures us that there is a place where our heavenly citizenship and earthly life actually converge, namely, at the throne of God.  In other words, God, through the apostle Paul, entreats us to pray for those who govern us.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-4).


            Aloofness and indifference to our human government is no more godly than is embracing its wickedness and sin.  We are most fully the citizens of heaven in regard to our civic life on earth and at the same time most separate from the world when we take up our role as priests and intercede on behalf of those who govern.  In other words, believers do not demonstrate righteousness in civil affairs by living as though governments do not exist, or by ignoring or disdaining them (“For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” [Rom. 13:1]), but rather by falling to our knees and pleading before the throne of grace (by “stand [ing] in the gap” [Ezek. 22:30]).

            Regardless of our politics or party affiliation, regardless of who our President is and our senators and congressmen are, regardless of how the Supreme Court is constituted, regardless of who sits in our state’s executive mansion or fills our state’s legislature, and regardless of who our city mayor and city council members are, we have a solemn duty—and privilege—to uphold them before the throne of grace (“so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity”).  People of all sorts may qualify to vote, but only believers may appeal to God that He would work through or despite those who are in authority, for we should remember the well-turned phrase, “Man proposes but God disposes.”  Whether we like or dislike those who govern us and whether they are good or evil, we are still called upon to entreat, pray, petition, and give thanks for those whom God has been pleased to place over us.  If we will obey the Lord in this duty, though our citizenship is in heaven, we will be good citizens of both heaven and earth.  Believers should never consider themselves helpless pawns or impotent serfs at the mercy of forces beyond our control, for we know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we know that “the king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” [Pro. 21:1].). The Lord always accomplishes His divine purpose.  May we pray in faith believing for those in authority and rest in the hands of the Lord who alone and always “has done all things well” (Mk. 7:37).        

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