I remember, as a student of the
public schools in the 1960s, being introduced to the outdated nationalistic practice of
flag-waving. Flag-wavers were those folks who bragged too much about the
superior characteristics of their own country to folks who lived in other countries.
Apparently, Americans had gained a reputation prior to and during WWI and WWII of being
flag-wavers. However, as it was taught to me during Social Studies, flag-waving was a
thing of our past. I had to agree. It sure didnt line up with what I was seeing on
I suppose the Korean War just wasnt as popular as WWII, the Bay of Pigs was a
national embarrassment on a global scale, the Cold War kept a chill on the spirit of our
nation, and people seemed to be really tiring of the Vietnam conflict.
Somewhere in all of this, flag-waving greatly suffered. In fact, you might say we dropped
the flag. Today, instead of a country of flag-wavers, it is thought that we need a
constitutional amendment to stop the citizens from burning the flag. Yes, youve come
a long way baby.
But it wasnt always that way. In a speech delivered by John Quincy Adams on July
4th, 1837, Quincy wondered aloud with the crowd why Christmas and July 4th were the two
most significant holidays of our country. Quincy stated, Is it not that in a chain
of human events the birthday of a nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the
Savior? That it affords a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it
not that the Declaration of Independence first organized a social compact on a foundation
of the redeemers solution upon earth? That it lay the cornerstone of human government upon
the first precepts of Christianity?
In his farewell address, George Washington stated that the two foundations for political
prosperity in America were religion and morality and that no one could be considered an
American patriot who ever attempted to separate politics from its two foundations.
Today, the idea of what it means to be a respectable citizen of the United States has been
redefined by a generation who was greatly affected by the practical implications of
citizenship. Picture Al Gore thirty years ago at a sing-a-long with Peter, Paul, and Mary
(Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing? When will they ever
learn?) and one gets a better (or worse) perspective of todays agenda that is
defining good and bad citizenship. Forty years ago, illegal drug use was scarce and kept
behind closed doors. Now it is fashionable to have the strung out appearance of a heroine
addict. Even ten years ago a soldier would never be caught out of uniform by wearing a
garment of another countrys military. Gads!! That would be treason!! Today, a
soldier has been dishonorably discharged for upholding his oath of service by refusing to
wear alien military garb. What was well hid away in the closet now brashly comes out of
the closet on television and parades itself up and down the main drags of public parades.
Ones attitude toward certain minority and/or special interest issues could be the
difference between pass and fail in citizenship. Some might say that the inmates of the
1960s have truly taken over the asylum of the 1990s.
Standards of citizenship effect every sphere of life we involve ourselves in: work,
business, church, family, acquaintances, and especially individually within our own
selves. Each sphere is going to have its own set of rules that define a good member versus
a bad member. The employer expects his employees to be punctual, families will have
standards of obedience, business men expect honest transactions, etc . . . Having duties
and responsibilities in each of these areas, we have dynamically simultaneous
relationships with others also working within each area. The pressure brought to bear on
each of us as we interface with others within the various spheres of life is to
compartmentalize our life with differing standards of ethics (i.e., adhering to differing
standards in differing situations). Perhaps Im an honest business man, but I
dont mind lying to my wife. Conflicts within the individual that arises from such
compartmentalization of ethics are the result of individuals who establish themselves as
the author and enforcer of their own standard of ethics. While conflicts will always arise
between differing standards who compete for supremacy over the individual, there should
never be an internal struggle within the Christian who acknowledges God's standards as
supreme over all other competing systems.
The serious Christian is going to resist this tendency toward subjective relativism (i.e.,
every man doing that which is right in his own eye) as he will in every area of ethics.
While resistance is good, Jesus' Great Commission obligates us not only to resist but to
advance the correct standard and application of proper citizenship. Parents (who, if home
schooling, are likely required by law to be teaching their children citizenship) are to
know the foundations of biblical citizenship as well as the attitudes and actions that
support or erode those foundations. Equipping and training our children in biblical
citizenship is the first step in our duty to reverse the tide of declining citizenship not
only of those outside the Kingdom of God, but also of those who claim allegiance to Jesus
Christ yet whose loyalties are split and compromised.
As Christians, our citizenship is from heaven and, therefore, the standards that define
good citizenship and bad citizenship also originate from God's throne room. His standards
are comprehensive, covering all of creation and all of life. As Kingdom of God citizens,
we don't leave His standards of citizenship behind and adopt other standards when we leave
the church building. Instead, we are to take the standards of rightful citizenship in the
Kingdom of God and apply those standards to every area of our lives.
A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN
Let's just dive right into the
main issue of citizenship: rules. It seems to be especially true of our fallen nature to
disdain rules. But not altogether, for we like for everyone else to be subject to the
rules while preferring to hold ourselves aloof. Our two-year-old Allison exemplifies this
fact of human nature best as she is the latest to take on the role of enforcer. She has no
problem advising us that one of her siblings has broken a rule and needs a spanking. In
fact, she's pretty merciless. But when it comes to facing her own lack of obedience, well,
it becomes a matter of negotiation in her mind. "Let's hold everyone else's feet to
the fire, but I'm an exception," seems to be her train of thought. The same train of
thought runs predominant throughout all of humanity.
Training in good citizenship begins at home. The family is the first place a person learns
what it means to be subject to and obedient to the rules. It is within the family setting
that the child first learns that there is a law-giver outside himself. As parents, we know
that there must be rules in the home and compliance to those rules if the home is to be
orderly and productive. Therefore, we communicate the rules of the house to those in the
household and the expectation of compliance. The child learns that there are blessings for
obedience and curses for disobedience.
Most agree that this kind of environment and training is a good thing for the child. We
know that for the child to grow into a productive, law-abiding adult, he must be willing
to submit to the rules of the family first and then to the rule of the larger household of
our nation. To do otherwise, that is, to allow people to be the law-makers unto
themselves, whether at home as children or in the larger family of our nation as adults,
would be to promote anarchy and lead to the demise of our social order.
If law and order is necessary to prevent anarchy in the family and larger society, what
about the church? Now there's a topic that will raise the neck hair of many a so-called
kingdom citizen. Not that anyone thinks that there should not be a polity of rules for the
administrative functions of the individual church bodies. No, the question is, Are
there any rules, any standards of Kingdom citizenship, that apply to the individual
Christian and, if so, from where do they originate and how are they to be applied?
To put it really blunt, the issue of Kingdom citizenship within the Church is a matter of
Christian ethics. Unfortunately, it is usually presented as a choice between two
alternative and competing ethical systems: law or grace. It is the unfortunate practice of
pitting the two against each other, as if diametric opposites, that has crippled the
church as a relevant influence in society. After all, if those are your only two choices,
which would you choose? Before diving into the middle of a very controversial and
emotional subject, and because you probably have an idea of where I'm heading anyway,
let's first discuss the reason why this is a critical topic within the modern Church.
HAS GOD INDEED SAID?
There are only two systems of
ethics that can be implemented at home, church, work, and society: Gods or not
Gods. Since the temptation and fall in the garden, man is continually faced with the
choice between Gods authentic life giving law-word and Satans counterfeit
death producing anarchy-word. Evolutionism struck deep into the heart of man's convictions
concerning his origins. Instead of a child of God, miraculously created in His image, he
was nothing more than a product of millions of years of survival. Exchanging his Creator
for mere survival, it became necessary to exchange the source of ethics: from a derivative
of God to a reconstruction by man. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the growing
lawlessness and rebellion in the children of this and the previous generation. It is the
logical conclusion of a generation who was denied legal counsel from God at school, at
church, and at the gates of government. Left with no other law-giver but man, he defaulted
to his fallen nature, challenged the right of those in authority to be in authority,
hitchhiked to California, and lived on the beach in perfect harmony with himself and
nature. He arrived, becoming his own source of law. Sound familiar? The French
Revolution is a good example of the consequences of man being his own source of law. So is
the ongoing sexual revolution of America.
Not that we do not recognize that God has ordained positions of men to be law-givers
(e.g., parents, employers, civil legislators). But they are never to be a law of and unto
themselves. It is the difference between constructively reinterpreting Gods law for
the circumstances of our day and destructive reconstruction; making up laws as we go
along. Every system of ethics as instituted by man in the society they live must have its
origins from God. To do otherwise is to have a godless system of ethics. Since we live in
a fallen world, it is given that fallen man, given the job to administer God's law-system,
is going to miss the mark of His righteousness. But that by no means gives us the right to
throw up our hands and throw in the towel allowing unrighteousness to rule. God has so
ordained His people with His law, written on their hearts and revealed by His Word, and
commanded them to teach nations all that He has commanded.
MY SON, FORGET NOT MY
The family is the God ordained
institution designed and commissioned to train the children in all aspects of godliness. A
child learns quickly that there can be several sources of law in his life. Sources of law
include parents, older siblings, Sunday School teachers, coaches, tutors, and sundry other
people that the child is placed under the authority of at different times of his
childhood. The critical point is what the child is taught (either directly or by
inference) with regards to the source of law for those sundry authority figures who rule
the childs behavior.
While the family is the initial training ground for the children, the Church is the
ordained institution by which the parents are trained in rearing their children in
Godliness and where the saints of God come together collectively to receive instruction in
the application of Gods law for the issues of the day. No other institution (i.e.,
family or state) is going to do the training in Godliness. The family is dependent upon
the Church, being vulnerable to the power of the state when left unprotected by the
Church. The government of our day, having abandoned its Godly heritage in lieu of
pluralistic egalitarianism, is the epitome of man centered lawlessness and has nothing to
offer to anyone as far as a model of some set standard of conduct. Therefore, the Church,
the God ordained steward of His holy and righteous judgements, is the only institution
with the qualifications and tools to train a society in Godliness. The Church possesses
the authentic garment.
However, the Church in America has led the way for the past 125 years in the effort to
un-bench and disbar God from His rightful position as the one and only law-source for man.
She suffers from the Allison Syndrome. Having dispensed with Gods
standards of faithful citizenship, the Church is left with no other place to look for a
source of ethics but to herself and the world. Accordingly, the Church in America, in her
desire to be lusted for by the world, to make everyone comfortable and unthreatened at
Gods altar, has made great strides in her appearance of social, political, and
environmental correctness. Shes still irrelevant, but she looks good. So far has she
slipped that recently a coalition of fifty ministers publicly cast their
support for the forced removal of Gods Ten Commandments from a Georgia court room
all in the name of religious freedom and church/state separation. But then, 35 years after
the coup that evicted God from the public schools, this is just mopping up operations.
It is at this point that we reach the heart of the law/grace issue of the Christian faith.
It is not the purpose of this article to argue the issue distinctively, but rather to
suggest that there are obvious consequences in the Church and society of our day that are
a direct result of the Churchs jettison of Gods law, as revealed in the whole
of the Bible, as the standard of Christian and civil ethics. Please dont misread or
misinterpret what I am standing for here. As far as the salvation of man, there has never,
ever, been any way to be saved nor will there ever be any way to be saved except by
Gods merciful free grace, and that through faith. No law, not even Gods law,
has ever, nor will it ever, save a man from eternal damnation.
But, after a man is saved, How should we then live? This is the question asked
by Francis Schaeffer 21 years ago that the Church in America still refuses to answer. This
is the question that cannot be trivialized away with passages like Colossians 2:6. This is
the question that we must face if we intend to raise a generation equipped to bring the
wisdom of God to bear on the issues of our nation.
CITIZENSHIP WORTHY OF THE
As Christians, our rights to
Kingdom citizenship are based on Gods free and merciful adoption of us into His
household. (Romans 8:14-17) Ezekiel 16:1-14 portrays a vivid picture of Israels
condition (as well as each of us) prior to and immediately after Gods adoption of
them into His household. The rest of the chapter recounts their faithlessness to their
adoptive parent and the consequences thereof. As Christian parents, our household is to
model for our children the same standards of good citizenship as those required of Kingdom
citizens. By doing so, and by demonstrating to the child that the familial duties of
citizenship are the same as the heavenly duties (as well as consequences for
disobedience), the child learns that there is always a law-giver that transcends him; that
he is never a law-giver unto himself.
There are at least two significant qualities of behavior derived from the Bible that
suggest the difference between good and bad citizenship: devotion and loyalty. Both are
important qualities to be modeled and learned in the home first and then applied in the
larger household of the Church and nation. When the child is trained in the qualities of
citizenship as they are taught to each Kingdom citizen from Gods word, the child
learns that standards of obedience and blessings transcend the adult authorities in his
life and will apply to him no matter what age or what circumstance he may find himself.
To be devoted to something or someone is to give all of ones resources toward that
something or someone willingly and enthusiastically. It is an attitude that the something
or someone of devotion takes precedence over all other things. In many ways it is the
opposite of selfishness. The Lord Jesus set the standard of devotion for Kingdom citizens
when He answered a question quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5, You shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt
22:37) All of those alls just doesnt leave much room for anything else.
Not that we are to forsake everything else in our lives. Husbands are still commanded to
love their wife, wives to honor their husband, and children to obey their parents. But the
application of these kingdom responsibilities is to be initiated by and proceed from our
devotion to God. In other words, the fact that I fulfill my duty to provide for my family
does not, in of itself, commend me to God. There are lots of pagans who faithfully and
devotedly provide for their families. For the Christian, the act of providing for
ones family (as well as all other Kingdom duties) is to originate from our
unwavering devotion to our God and King. Therefore, providing for ones family is not
a matter of satisfying ones self or the members of ones family. It is a matter
of devotion to God with all ones heart, soul, and mind.
This may seem like an insignificant play on words, but the subtle difference is an
important one. Since the industrialization and urbanization of our country, it seems that
children have been increasingly taught that the family is there to serve the child, the
family is to be devoted to the child, and the child is the center of all that happens. It
is no wonder that the Christian young adult, about to leave the nest, has no practical
concept of loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind. In fact, he doesnt even
know what it means. It cant be done. There are too many other things going on in his
life for him to be concerned with. So he marries and has kids. He provides for them
because thats what everyone expects him to do. Which is OK until she starts nagging
him about his friends and his time away from home. Then he begins to remember the good
ol days when mom and dad catered to his every desire. Well, mom and dad might not do
it anymore, but he sure can if he can ditch this nag and her kids and the rest is very
familiar history in the life of one out of three marriages today.
Godly devotion must be taught to children at home beginning at a young age if the child is
going to grasp the concept of devotion to God as an adult. The child learns that he is a
part of a family who depends on him and his active participation in what the family is
involved in. His whole life and being are surrounded and encompassed by the family, not
the other way around. He is expected to participate in everything the family is doing and
not encouraged to establish his own private schedule apart from the rest of the family. He
is expected to know what his fellow family members are doing and to give his attention
toward assisting them when necessary or required. This is how the child learns that there
is a bigger world out there than what revolves around himself.
Having been trained in Godly devotion in a tangible family setting, the
child-now-turned-adult is capable to serve as an ambassador of Gods invisible
Kingdom in a lost and dying world. He provides for his family, loves his wife, takes his
stand for Gods righteousness in the city gates not because it pleases him or because
his wife expects it. He does it because it is the agenda of his King and because he is a
responsible part of the kingdoms work. He does it out of love and devotion to his
Lord Jesus Christ. That is the subtle difference in training, in thinking, and in
motivation that can make a huge impact on our nation.
Closely associated with devotion, loyalty implies unwavering allegiance to the ideas and
cause of another. While commonly associated with fidelity between spouses, loyalty is
historically associated with ones allegiance to a sovereign, such as a prince or
king. God commands His kingdom citizens to have His commandments in their heart, to teach
them diligently to their children, to talk of them when you sit, walk, sleep, and arise.
To bind them on our hands, to see the world through them as if eyeglasses, and to display
them on our homes and the gates of the city. (Deut 6:6-8) In other words, there is no
place for competing ideologies in Gods kingdom or among His citizenry.
One of the best kept secrets of the last 100 years is a historical fiction writer by the
name of G. A. Henty. Known for his historical accurateness, Mr. Henty sets a fictitious
character (usually a young man) with a significant historical figure at the time of a
significant historical event. These are excellent read aloud books that the whole family
(even dad) will look forward too. The vocabulary is excellent, there is little to no
romance, and Hentys fictional character is always one who demonstrates excellent
character. The books are packed full of action, historical information, and commentary.
One of the qualities that has been amplified for us through his books is loyalty. His
characters demonstrated their loyalty by their willingness to drop everything at the call
of their sovereign lord. They would willingly die before standing by while their
lords name was slandered or his cause maligned. Their lords cause and mission
was their cause and mission. They were faithful messengers of his cause and mission,
always ready to come to his service and carry valuable documents and instructions to other
alliances. Accordingly, an important ingredient of Kingdom citizenship is being loyal to
the standards, goals, and ideas of our King Jesus.
THEY HAVE DESPISED THE LAW OF
However, the Church in America is
having a real problem with devotion and loyalty. Feeling the pressure of an overwhelming
number of competing ideologies and acquiescing to the demands of the phantom
Establishment Clause of the revised First Amendment, she has demonstrated her
willingness to conform to the requirements of society rather than demonstrate her
determination to transform the world. In fact, for the most part, she will not even
acknowledge the duty to transform the world by the power of the Gospel. More likely, her
constituents consider such thinking to be one of the greater sins, second only to tithing.
She has bought into humanistic compartmentalization that sees no connection between the
one and the whole.
Still desirous to be faithful to The Great Commission, the Church in America focuses on
the individual to the exclusion of the whole. What she has found, though, are people who
have defined for themselves (since the Church will not) what are acceptable standards of
citizenship. Being sensitive to the seeker, the Church protects the guilt
challenged from the true nature of God by veiling His most embarrassing
idiosyncrasies. Idiosyncrasies like His jealousness of devotion, His passionate hate of
sin, and His insatiable obsession with justice. Having never been confronted with their
lawlessness, their rebellion, and their sin, they have never been truly confronted with
Gods merciful love.
Thus is the condition created when grace and law are polarized into opposite and competing
corners. Having abandoned the standards of kingdom citizenship as found in Gods
word, and adopted modern mass marketing strategies as her latest tool of evangelism, the
Church has neutralized itself as the salt and light of the world that Jesus so commanded
her to be. Accordingly, she may celebrate the power of the Gospel to transform the life of
an individual, maybe a marriage, and perhaps even a family. But when it comes to a
neighborhood, a community, a city, a state, or a nation, well, shes not really sure
that the Gospel was meant for such a purpose. The Church in America is standing at the
door of treason against her King, the Lord Jesus.
Prior to the 1950s, nationalism
reigned in the United States. Since that time, nationalism has taken a back seat to
globalism while the cry for radical individualistic freedom and the official recognition
of every conceivable subset of human persuasion has ushered in the present era of
unprecedented egalitarianism. Within one generation, Americans have enthusiastically
embraced pluralism as the standard of socio-economic ethics. Every conceivable heritage,
from ethnic origination to sexual orientation, has the right (no, is due) to be free from
any and all possible prejudices that might hinder the subgroup from superior status above
every other subgroup that comes along. It is from this environment that political
correctness has flourished in every area of our life in the country.
Consider what is already in place at our work places and schools: required sensitivity
training for prejudices toward gender (other than male), ethnic (other than Caucasian) ,
AIDS, and sexual orientation (other than heterosexuals); environmental correctness that
places environmental issues over human and property rights; Goals 2000, Outcome Based
Education, and now, government enforced School-to-Work programs.
Of all the academic disciplines the law requires home schooling parents to teach their
children, none is as subjective in content as citizenship. The shift in our national
orientation, from individualistic nationalism to communal globalism, has already greatly
influenced the definition of what good and responsible citizenship means. If you think
that a good patriot is one who places his hand over his heart when reciting the pledge of
allegiance, you had better look again.
The defining attributes of a faithful and loyal citizen of the United States is becoming
less and less recognizable to those who look to Gods word and American history as a
basis. While we may think that we are being faithful to teach our children good
citizenship skills, I sense that the rest of our fellow countrymen, including a large
number of those in the Church, are beginning to take a differing view.
Hopefully, you now see the critical role the Church plays. As I said earlier, the family
is dependent upon the Church, being vulnerable to the power of the state when left
unprotected by the Church. She is to be a leader in establishing the standards of rightful
citizenship for our nation as she was in its founding. But for her to do so, she must have
constituents who are active in their role as leaders. We must, as faithful kingdom
citizens, advocate the right of our King to establish the standards of citizenship and
loyally teach those to ourselves, our children, and to the nations. We are to model for
the world and for our children the consistent application of Gods law across all
spheres of our life. We are to jealously guard our Kings right to be the one and
only legitimate source of law in all areas of our society. As God continues to call more
and more of His people to see that there is indeed a line drawn in the sand and a moral
stand to be taken, one can be encouraged that He is at work within His Church and drawing
her back into faithful obedience to His word. May we all be an active citizen of His
kingdom, faithfully devoted and loyal to His cause.