Duties of Citizenship: Only Voting?

As I mentioned in August 2013, Wayne Grudem’s book, Politics According to the Bible is a worthwhile resource on American politics and the Christian life. Now, I can’t stand the title of the book and I surely don’t agree with everything Grudem says in it, but it was a stimulating read for me (here’s my review).  Over the years I’ve wrestled with what it means to be a citizen of the United States and a follower of Jesus Christ.  I’m not a “Christian Patriot,” but I did serve a full term in the military.  I don’t think the United States is “God’s special country,” but I am thankful to live here.  Grudem’s book was a good conversation partner in my thinking even when I disagreed with him.

For one example, I’ve thought about this question: Do Christians in the United States (or other similar countries) have an obligation to do more than simply vote?  Grudem, in my opinion, was persuasive that we should do more than simply vote.

“The question is whether someone thinks it is morally right to receive great benefits from a nation but to give almost nothing in return.  The great freedoms that citizens have in the United States came only as a result of great sacrifice on the part of  millions of others.  The original signers of the Declaration of Independence knew that they were publicly declaring themselves to be guilty of treason against Britain, and they knew they would be subject to the death penalty and to confiscation of their property if the British caught them or defeated them.”

Grudem then goes on to note how many military men and women throughout the years died to protect and maintain the freedom we have in the U.S.  He continues:

“These hundreds and thousands of men (and many women as well) sacrificed their lives to protect their nation and preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.  Is it right that we simply enjoy these freedoms while giving back to our nation nothing in return?  If so many have given their very lives to protect and preserve our nation, then do the rest of us who receive such great benefits from these sacrifices not have an obligation to do something more than merely voting? …Is it not right that all of us at least do something more than merely voting to preserve and protect this nation?” (p. 74-75).

Much more could be said, of course; I wish Grudem would have expanded on this.  As Christians we do have a duty to love our neighbor, help promote his welfare, and help those who need it.  And we have a duty to pray for our leaders, pray for peace, and pay taxes.  And broadly speaking about ethics, it is right and proper for a person who is part of a group, club, family, or country to contribute for the well-being of others, to do his or her part (this is why we make our kids do chores!).

Still another way to put it might be like this: in the kingdom of grace, we are called to use our gifts to serve fellow brothers and sisters and contribute to church life.  In the kingdom of power, we are called to use our gifts to serve others and contribute to life in our community/city/country.  Being a leech, being lazy, or being the infamous sluggard in Proverbs is not acceptable in either realm.

Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).

shane lems

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2 comments on “Duties of Citizenship: Only Voting?

  1. David Gray says:

    I think a reexamination of Luther’s doctrine of vocation would be a big help with questions like this The excellent Gene Veith puts it like this:

    “It goes something like this: When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And he does. The way he gives us our daily bread is through the vocations of farmers, millers, and bakers. We might add truck drivers, factory workers, bankers, warehouse attendants, and the lady at the checkout counter. Virtually every step of our whole economic system contributes to that piece of toast you had for breakfast. And when you thanked God for the food that he provided, you were right to do so.

    “God could have chosen to create new human beings to populate the earth out of the dust, as he did with the first man. But instead, he chose to create new life-which, however commonplace, is no less miraculous-by means of mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, the vocations of the family.

    “God protects us through the vocations of earthly government, as detailed in Romans 13. He gives his gifts of healing usually not through out-and-out miracles (though he can) but by means of the medical vocations. He proclaims his word by means of human pastors. He teaches by means of teachers. He creates works of beauty and meaning by means of human artists, whom he has given particular talents.”

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