It is a paradox of the Christian life that the more profoundly one is concerned about heaven, the more deeply one cares about God’s will being done on Earth. The Christians who show most passion to serve others in this world are regularly those with the strongest hold on the other-worldly realities. This has always been true, whether we look at ministers, missionaries, statesmen, reformers, industrialists, physicians, men of wealth and power, or ordinary layfolk.
Service to others, as an expression of love to them, is a Christian priority. But citizenship is a form of service, as most Christians have seen from the start. Despite the Marxist claim that religion anesthesizes one to the needs of Earth, we instead find that, other things being equal, those whose citizenship is in heaven (I echo Paul’s phrase in Phil. 3:20) make the best citizens of any state, democratic or totalitarian, Christian or pagan, secular or even atheist.
The Biblical Basis for Public Activism
In the New Testament, civic obligation is emphatically commanded alongside—indeed, as part of—the obligation to serve God. When Jesus answered the question about taxpaying with the words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17), this was not a clever evasion of the issue, but a clear acknowledgement that rendering what is due to the existing political regime is part of the Christian calling. When Peter in one breath says, “Fear God. Honor the Emperor” (1 Peter 2:17), he spotlights the same truth; as does Paul when, in the course of his overview of the life of gratitude for grace that is true Christianity, he teaches the Roman Christians to “be ...1
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