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Christian Citizenship

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Back in the 1950s the Reverend Otto Schmidt used to tell new residents to the Como Park  neighborhood that they needed to do three things:

  • join a church,
  •  join a civic group (like the Lions or Rotary or Kiwanis) and
  • join a political party.

This was how Christians could live out their life in Luther’s Two Kingdoms doctrine; honoring God’s governance  over all things related to salvation while also honoring the governance he has entrusted to us for all things related to life in this world.

Times have changed.

Churches have taken on political advocacy and engaged themselves directly in neighborhood service in new ways.  Service organizations have dwindled and political parties have become more polarized and less cooperative.  One could also say they have become more committed to their own constituencies and less committed to the common good.

So how does a Christian live out their calling to life in this world today, so that they are still committed to service and civic engagement?  How does one act in a democracy as a Christian Citizen?  One answer:

  • Get out and vote!

Invest yourself in knowing the candidates and their positions.  Understand the issues.  And if you are willing to define yourself as a Christian Citizen, committed to living out your faith in all aspects of your life, and making a Christian witness to the world, then ask yourself what positions and what candidates are most in line with your faith.   Is Jesus’ care for the widow and the orphan, the foreigner and the child reflected in your vote?  Is God’s care for creation and his charge of stewardship for all of creation reflected in your vote?  Are the values of mercy, love and compassion reflected in your vote?  Is God’s desire for justice something that shapes your vote?

What does it mean to be a Christian Citizen?  What does it mean to make a public witness to your faith in the kingdom of this world?  Voting is a faith-filled action.  Or at least it ought to be.  But in order for that to have a glimmer of reality, we Christians have to embrace our citizenship meaningfully as a public witness and a divine calling for how we are to be in the world, for the sake of the world.

This is where the Lutheran understanding of individual moral discretion comes in.  We read scripture together,  listen to its exposition from the pulpit, pray about it, talk about it together in community, and we come to our own faithful understanding of what we believe God is calling us to be and to do –both individually and together -in the world.  It’s a community activity in which the Holy Spirit works upon us.  It doesn’t allow us to live in isolation from one another, and it doesn’t allow us to simply parrot the authority or the sayings of others.  It requires our active engagement in scripture and in community.   At the end we may faithfully disagree with one another or with the positions of the church or others, but if we act faithfully, read and reflect upon scripture together, and pray earnestly, then it is enough to trust in the good will of the other and the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can respect each other and worship God together.

Consider your Christian citizenship.  Live so that God’s kingdom comes in part through you.  Get out and vote.

–Pastor Martin R. Ericson

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