Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.
Now that we have an understanding of what good Christian citizenship is, let’s consider the good examples set by individuals who lived for the glory of God and loved their neighbors well. Isaac Newton once attributed his scientific success to “standing on the shoulders of giants” who had gone before him. Likewise, we can press on toward being better citizens because others have already laid down a strong foundation for us to build upon.
In the first installment of this series on citizenship, the question was posed, “What does it mean to be a Christian citizen?” A biblical example of godly citizenship is Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives described in the book of Exodus. The pharaoh who had enslaved the children of Israel feared an uprising, so to reduce the male population, he commanded Shiphrah and Puah to kill any sons born to the Hebrews. Because “the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Exodus 1:17), the Lord blessed them for their faithfulness. The women modeled good citizenship because they prioritized the kingdom of heaven over their citizenship of Egypt while seeking the well-being of their neighbors.
The second installment of this series talked about discerning the differences between good and bad citizenship, and explained why being a good citizen of heaven sometimes necessitates being a “bad” citizen of earth. In another biblical example, Esther risked her life to save her people from mass genocide. Esther was the queen of Persia, and her identity as a Jew was not public. Rather than seek her own safety, however, she chose to consider the well-being of others and went to the king uninvited to plead for the lives of her people, the Jews. Her selfless act made her a good citizen of heaven, despite temporarily making her a “bad” citizen of Persia.
The third installment of this series explained why good citizens are essential for any community to flourish and why good citizenship often requires courage and determination to uphold the truth. During World War II, the Nazis began an indoctrination program called Hitler’s Youth. However, some young people resisted Nazi indoctrination. One such young woman was Sophie Scholl (pictured above). She took a stand against the regime and gave her life at the age of 22 because she dared to open the eyes of her peers with her words. We need good citizens like Sophie, who are willing to risk everything for the truth.
The fourth installment of this series emphasized the importance of raising and discipling good citizens. Many Christians are familiar with the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. Their mother, Susanna Wesley, is an excellent model of faithful discipleship. Susanna had 19 children, half of whom did not live to adulthood, due to sickness, accidents, and a house fire. Her husband was often away traveling for the church, so most of the child-rearing responsibilities fell to Susanna. She was determined to disciple her children in the Lord and lead them in family worship, reading and memorizing Scripture, and daily prayer. Her dedication to her children impacted countless people and communities, as she successfully raised good Christian citizens who would grow up to change the world.
The fifth installment of this series discussed whether it is appropriate for Christians to have patriotic loyalties for their earthly nations. The apostle Paul wrestled with this when he said, “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:4b-7). Paul was a proud Hebrew and Jew. There was nothing wrong with feeling an affection for and delight in his heritage, but Paul recognized that he must boast in what Christ has done first.
There are countless more historical examples of individuals who have balanced good citizenship to earthly kingdoms and the kingdom of heaven. May we look to their example and aspire to be good citizens ourselves. This world is not our permanent home; we are citizens of heaven. But we must steward our time on earth well and consider the work that God has for us to do. May we all be good citizens who are engaged in this fall’s elections and our communities year-round. Whatever we do, in word or deed, we should do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17).