June 29, 2017 | Citizenship

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, 
to obey, to be ready for every good work, 
to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, 
always showing gentleness to all people.”
[Titus 3:1-2 HCSB]
Citizens of civility
Titus 3 calls for Christians to be civil citizens. As we watch violence and intimidation tactics take over our culture, God’s words in Titus 3 serve as an important touchstone. We must not fight fire with fire, leaving everyone burned. As Trevin Wax recently wrote on The Gospel Coalition site:
The idea that violence is the way to “beat some sense into someone” is a mark of tyranny, not freedom. Whenever you see it, whether advocated by people on the Right or the Left, you must call it out and resist it openly and urgently. There is no room for partisanship on this question; it is every American’s patriotic duty to oppose any justification for violence against one’s political opponent. If [Charles] Murray is correct that we have reached an inflection point, then we should do whatever we can to strengthen the pillars of our civilization. Freedom is a fragile thread that can unravel faster than any of us think.
In another very insightful recent article, philosopher Peter Burfeind relates that only the Christian ethos of loving one’s neighbor can save us from the modern Gnosticism of incivility justified by “a greater cause.” He summarizes: “Until we begin seeing each other as our flesh and blood neighbors with names and not through the archetypical lenses of media, the political violence will only heighten.” You can access his full column here:
The bottom line is that you and I must lead the way. The only hope for a culture intent on tearing itself apart is found in Christians setting the tone of civility.
Submit and pray
Further, God calls Christians to submit to and pray for secular authorities. It’s a theme throughout the Bible, and especially in Paul’s writings. Pastor Raphael Cruz summarizes Paul nicely:
The officials we elect act as gatekeepers for our country. According to 1 Timothy 2…[and Romans 12-13], our prayers for our leaders lead to godliness and reverence, and ultimately open the way for God’s truth to be made known.
– Raphael Cruz, A Time for Action, p. 131
But, one may wonder, what about oppressive, corrupt, or persecuting governments? Such was surely on Paul’s mind, especially as he wrote to Crete, where procurator corruption was notorious. Martin Luther also dealt with persecution, and I think he captured the ethos of Paul and all scripture quite well. Luther said:
God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians…and the secular, which…extends no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. We are to be subject to governmental power and do what it bids, as long as it does not bind our conscience but legislates only concerning outward matters…But if it invades the spiritual domain and constrains the conscience, over which God only must preside and rule, we should not obey it at all but rather lose our necks. Temporal authority and government extend no further than to matters which are external and corporeal.
– Martin Luther, “The Two Kingdoms,” 1528 sermon in Marburg
Thus, Christians are not to violate scripture. We are zealous to change human governments when those rulers exceed their authority, and even willing to die rather than violate God’s Word. Yet when the government is within the rule of law and not commanding God’s people to violate God’s higher law, we must submit and obey – even when they keep raising your taxes.