Some Thoughts for Free Citizens

Christians in the United States and other participatory democracies have the opportunity to influence the governance of their communities for good. Voting for public officials is one way in which Christians can love their neighbors and “seek the shalom of the city” (Jer 29:7) where God has planted us, while we wait for “the eternal city that God has planned and built.” (Heb 11:10).

Here are a few thoughts about the civic environment (and these are purely purely personal reflections),

  1. Voting is not your civic duty. Informed, responsible voting is your civic duty. If you don’t have a clue, don’t vote.
  2. Voting is not the totality of your civic duty; it’s only a tiny slice of your civic duty. Being a good person, a good family member, a good neighbor and a good employee are all much more important. You owe your community more than the 15 minutes it takes to stand in line and vote.
  3. Voting doesn’t turn a bad citizen into a good citizen. A drug-dealer or slum-lord who votes has not done his civic duty. To a lesser degree, neither has the voter whose yard looks like a trash dump, or the voter who drives recklessly down the highway.
  4. To create good for the community, there are appropriate roles for the federal, state and local governments. Local is better when local is sufficient.
  5. There are even more important roles for businesses, volunteer organizations, neighbors and families.
  6. There are no laws written in nature about how a society should organize itself, except at the most basic level of the natural family.
  7. The size of an efficient organization depends on what is being done.
  8. There is no pie sitting on a shelf waiting to be divided. Wealth exists because humans continue to labor, create and take risks.
  9. You get more of the behaviors you subsidize and fewer of the behaviors you penalize.
  10. There are second and third order consequences to every decision. Understanding them takes a lot of work.
  11. Law is always coercive.
  12. The judicious use of power is necessary for the common good.
  13. Governance requires accounting for human nature as it exists, not as you would wish it to be.
  14. People have the capacity for evil. Power exacerbates the problem.
  15. Corruption, dishonesty and maliciousness are never acceptable means to a good end.
  16. Every institution seeks to enlarge its power, and to hold on to its power. The same goes for most people.
  17. No elected leader is the messiah. If you find one who thinks he is, or if his followers think he is, run.
  18. Bad decisions hurt people and waste resources. Bad decisions are inevitable.
  19. Dreams of perfection can drive the community forward, or they can keep a community from making the best practical decision in the present circumstances. In that way, the perfect can become an enemy of the good.
  20. Participatory politics is ugly and there’s not much good to say about it, except that it’s better than autocracy.
  21. Keep your perspective. Elections are important, but not all-important.
  22. Keep your expectations modest about what politics can accomplish and you will experience less disappointment.
  23. Abstain from political mud-wrestling. Exhibit respect, good faith and honesty.
  24. With great freedom comes great responsibility.

The political process will not usher in the kingdom of God, but it can make a positive difference in the lives of others. The state is not the church, however, and it is not the eternal hope of humankind. Whatever happens in the political realm, God still reigns, and the church still has its mission to accomplish.

3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts for Free Citizens”

  1. What scripture has to say:
    No Government leads to anarchy & chaos Judges 17:6; 21:25

    Government is established to protect those that do good and punish those that wrong.
    For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 1 Peter 2:14
    vindicate the afflicted, care for needy – Ps. 72:4
    compassion for poor and needy – Ps. 72:13
    judge with righteousness – Ps. 72:2
    avenger who brings wrath on those practice evil -Rom. 13:4

    Our responsibility
    Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh Romans 13
    Pay taxes to government – Rom. 13:6,7
    Pray for government – I Tim. 2:2
    Respect and honor toward government – Rom. 13:7
    Submit to government – I Pet. 2:13

    The question for the Christian is what platform is closest to what God deems good.


  2. d – I have actually written more extensively about the some of these Biblical passages related to citizenship elsewhere.

    Who Made You King? (Psalm 72)

    Commander in Chief (1 Timothy, Psalm 72)

    In the Service of Empire (Joseph, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther)

    The Wrath of God in Romans 12-13

    On the Force of Law (Romans 13)

    Let me throw in one more, because the whole Biblical text has something to say about how we live in the world.

    Blessed are the Peacemakers (The Sermon on the Mount).

    That wasn’t what I was trying to get at here.

    It’s important to remember as we look at the scriptures that the Christian situation in the world today is more like Daniel in Babylon than it was like David in Israel. The United States is not the covenant people of God; the church is.


  3. As the “covenant people” we should at the very least have a general understanding of what God says about debt, good vs. bad kings, marriage, children, lawlessness and good.
    I heard one prominent preacher say,” to interject the name of God with a platform that includes abortion, same sex marriage, rampant debt, and promiscuity a travesty and vain”.

    What the U.S is and is not is debatable. The U.S. has for certain been a blessed nation, a leader, and based on biblical principle in the past. The future remains to be seen.


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