Have you ever thought about the fact that Christians in the United States hold a dual citizenship? The logic of the New Testament is clear. The Apostle Paul spoke of all Christians, everywhere, as citizens of a heavenly Kingdom. Our heavenly citizenship is the most important possession we have, for it is secured by Jesus Christ our Savior.
As Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21). No earthly citizenship can compare with the Christian’s eternal citizenship in Heaven.
And yet, it is also true that the Apostle Paul would himself claim his rights as a Roman citizen. When the Roman authorities unjustly arrested Paul for preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem, hauled him before a tribunal and then flogged him, Paul asserted his rights as a citizen of Rome. “I am a citizen by birth,” Paul announced (Acts 22:28). The Roman tribune then knew that he had to recognize Paul’s rights of citizenship, “for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen” (Acts 22:29).
Like Paul, Christians who are American citizens have our own dual citizenship. In this life, we are simultaneously citizens of Heaven and citizens of the Unites States of America. As the case of the Apostle Paul makes clear, this dual citizenship can get us into trouble. But, at the same time, both citizenships are important.
Another famous Christian helps us to understand this dual citizenship. Augustine, the most important of the fathers of the ancient church in the first few centuries following the apostles’ deaths, taught his flock to understand that there are two cities that demand our attention and allegiance—the City of God and the City of Man. Each is driven by a passionate love. In the City of Man, the earthly city, the drive is for the love of humanity itself. In the City of God, the heavenly city, the passion is for the love of God.
Augustine was just explaining to believers what we are taught in the New Testament and what is illustrated by the Apostle Paul’s dual citizenship. He was trying to help Christians be faithful in our earthly citizenship, even as we wait for Heaven. God has left us in our earthly cities for a reason, Augustine insisted, and we are to be faithful citizens of the City of Man and the City of God.
Christians in the U.S. face many big challenges. The tectonic plates of our culture are shifting, and cultural progressives seek to restructure our entire society according to their own ideologies. A cadre of elites controls higher education, much of the media, and they intend to control all public school systems as well. This is no time for Christians to neglect our duty as Christian citizens. Christians are called to be salt and light in a darkening culture, and faithfulness calls out our deepest convictions and our active discipleship.
Christian citizens must exercise the power of our voices and speak the truth about the issues of our day. At political protests, the left often chants that “silence is violence.” The Christian must know that silence is unfaithfulness. Indeed, at times the silence of Christians is a sin.
We are called to tell the truth, even when it costs us. We have to speak on behalf of the unborn, even as many in our society demand the right to abortion and carry out the destruction of precious human lives in the womb. We have to speak out for marriage as the union of a man and a woman and for the sanctity of the family as the most essential unit of human civilization. We have to speak for righteousness and goodness and contend for laws that are just and for policies that uphold what is right.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told to know when it is a time to speak and when it is right to be silent (see Ecclesiastes 3:7). At the same time, the Prophet Ezekiel tells us that a failure to speak when danger approaches is a horrible sin. The Watchman on the Wall is to make the warning clear (see Ezekiel 33:1-9). Our voices are important, and the Christian citizen must be ready to speak, to make arguments, to engage in conversations and to make our convictions known.
The American constitutional system is based upon the right and responsibility of citizens to vote—to participate in elections and fulfill the citizen’s duty to choose the best candidates and make the right choices, vote by vote.
Americans are not the first citizens to have the power of the vote, but we are among the relatively few among all human beings who have ever been granted this privilege. Voting is an enormous act of stewardship, and not voting is just another way of voting badly. Furthermore, all elections are important. Christians generally understand the mandate to vote according to our convictions in national elections, but some of the most consequential votes we will ever cast are in elections for offices like a seat on the local school board.
Politics is not for the faint of heart, and Christians know the political fray can be tumultuous. Furthermore, we do not win every battle or election. But we stay involved, engaged and energetic, knowing that we have to work for what is right until Jesus comes. We will know both victory and setbacks in the City of Man, but only victory in the City of God. Every vote counts, every election matters, and every Christian citizen is called to be faithful. We have work to do, and duty calls. ©2022 By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the host of “The Briefing” podcast and writes regularly at AlbertMohler.com.
To get your copy of “A Biblical Perspective on Elections,” go to BillyGraham.org/elections.