Do You Have Dual Citizenship?

Are you an alien or a citizen? If you’re a citizen, do you have dual citizenship?

Before you answer these questions, they may not mean what you think they mean.

This week, the U.S. presidential election generated deep divisions throughout our country. Is President Obama a messenger of Satan or the man who can lead this nation forward? Was Mitt Romney our last hope or a tool of greedy capitalists determined to line their own pockets?

Now that the election is over, half the country is gnashing their teeth, and the other half is cheering. Even those who identify themselves as Christians are not in agreement about how to characterize the election results.

Some Christians are convinced President Obama was the only choice to implement compassionate solutions for a troubled population. Besides, he must be the right choice because the Bible tells us to “submit [ourselves] to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).

Other Christians believe the election doesn’t matter, because as Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We’re just passing through this temporary world. Where once we were “foreigners and aliens” in God’s kingdom, now we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). And since we are to look to the heavenly kingdom, we are to “set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

Still other Christians remind us we have been called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in a corrupt and dark world. That includes getting involved in the political process to elect leaders who will reflect biblical values.

So, is President Obama established by God in his position? Or should Christians ignore the political process since our citizenship is in heaven?

Maybe the answer is all of the above. Nothing takes our sovereign God by surprise. Whether or not we believe President Obama is the right man for the job today, he may be just the man God wants in that position to fulfill His plans for our nation and for the future of the world.

Getting involved in the political process is a good thing. Looking to government to solve all our problems is not. Being a responsible earthly citizen is a good thing. Forgetting we have a dual citizenship is not. Becoming angry over values that conflict with God’s Word is a good thing. Arrogantly cursing those who hold those values is not.

How will an unbelieving world come to know the King of Creation if His subjects don’t behave differently from unbelievers? The apostle Paul wrote, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2).

Does this passage describe you? Are you gloating because your guy won? Or are your conversations anything but gentle because your guy lost? Are you committed to praying for the president – and all our elected officials – regardless of their party affiliation?

Our behavior should proclaim our dual citizenship as clearly as our passports do. There’s nothing wrong with Christians getting excited about the politics of our nation. Just don’t forget about the other kingdom…and that you are a subject of the King who rules there.

What do you think?


Fallen Dictators

Another ruler has fallen.

Hosni Mubarek, President of Egypt, stepped down this week after almost thirty years of rule. He joins a long list of deposed dictators throughout history. Mass unrest in his country left him few options, despite his assurances that he would not leave until later this year.

The United States is interested in seeing Egypt institute some form of democracy. But how realistic is it to expect a transition to democracy in a nation that has never known such a government?

So who will govern Egypt? The military? Activists such as Wael GhonimThe Muslim Brotherhood?

We may have a long wait for the answers. Still, while the events in Egypt are a surprise to some of us, they are not a surprise to our omniscient Creator God. He controls history, brings nations and leaders onto the world stage in His perfect time, and then removes them when they have accomplished His purposes.

The Old Testament contains numerous predictions regarding the future of the nations. Isaiah recorded many prophecies in Isaiah 28-33 related to Israel’s neighbors. Daniel recorded prophecies regarding the nations in Daniel 11. His descriptions were so specific and fulfilled in such detail that modern critics now cast doubt on the authorship of this chapter solely on the basis that it is too accurate!

The anti-government uprising that swept through Egypt has spilled beyond her borders. Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen have also experienced protests. Even in closely governed Libya, dissidents in Benghazi called for the removal of Moammar Gadhafi.

But if we belong to the Lord, we need not fear the rise and fall of rulers and nations. God is sovereign, His Son is seated on His throne, and His Holy Spirit is present in each of His children. There is much truth in the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” That includes us…and Egypt.


Remember

Remembering has been getting more difficult these days. Last week I spent twenty minutes looking for my car keys, only to find them on the drivers’ seat of my car. I’m constantly on the hunt for my eyeglasses, only to locate them…yup, on top of my head. Embarrassing admissions that I chalk up to “senior moments” – except I’m not a “senior”…yet.

Remembering is important. The people and experiences we remember contribute to who we are…and who we are becoming. Remembering enables us to learn from our mistakes. Philosopher George Santayana noted, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Remembering also motivates us to do better. “Remember the Alamo” was the rallying cry for the Texan freedom forces following Mexico’s defeat of Colonel Travis’ army.

This week Americans are remembering something else. Saturday is September 11th—9/11—the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks responsible for the deaths of nearly 2800 people in New York City.

But what should this remembering lead to? Do we remember so that we can “give back as good as we get”? Do we remember in order to stoke hatred for others? Is remembering about keeping score, burning copies of the Qur’an (as is being planned by a pastor in Florida), or deciding whether  Muslims can build a mosque (the controversy raging in New York)?

Before I continue, it may help to point out that the Bible clearly defines different roles for individuals and for governments. It is the government’s responsibility to keep its citizens safe (Romans 13:1-4). However, as individuals we are called to walk in humility and forgiveness and to love our enemy (Luke 6:27-28). Granted, when we read verses such as these, it’s much easier to support them in theory than it is to apply them to those who have hurt or betrayed us, or who openly espouse our destruction.

Like us, the prophet Jonah struggled with the delicate balance between national defense and individual forgiveness. The ancient kingdom of Israel had to be on her guard against Assyria, a cruel enemy. Yet it was to this same enemy that God called Jonah to preach a message of repentance. Of course, Jonah did not want to go. He responded as many of us do when God calls us to do the hard thing—he ran in the opposite direction. The Assyrians deserved judgment, not forgiveness! When they repented in response to Jonah’s message, God chose not to bring judgment. Rather than being happy with the success of his mission, Jonah became angry with God (Jonah 4:1-2).

God is certainly not calling us to be foolish or naïve. Precautions must be taken for our safety and defense, and we rely on our government to do so. Of course, we should communicate our dissatisfaction when injustice occurs. And certainly, we can strongly protest the insensitivity and lack of wisdom in building a mosque so close to an area that still scrapes our collective and individual emotions raw with grief.

Still, personal hostility undermines and contradicts our Christian witness. Burning copies of the Qur’an may send a “message,” but what message does it send? That we are willing to stoop to the lowest levels of our enemies? That we are more interested in showing superiority than we are in sharing salvation?

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
(Romans 10:14-15).

Those of us who write, teach, or lead have been given the gift of communication—an ability to use words creatively or persuasively. We can honor God with this gift, or we can corrupt it to stoke the spread of hatred, making us no better than our enemies.

As we remember this terrible anniversary, let’s do it in such a way that honors those who died or were injured, while not dishonoring Christ, since we bear His name. It can be done, but only as we depend on the Holy Spirit for His enabling.

How will your remembrance of 9/11 reflect who you are as an American…and as a Christian?


Do We Need a National Day of Prayer?

I’ve received several messages on FaceBook about the President deciding not to proclaim a National Day of Prayer in May. While that’s not true, he has chosen to issue the proclamation without hosting a ceremony in the White House.

However, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb has taken stronger action. She has ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, pending appeal. My first reaction was outrage…until I read the judge’s comment:
“Recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not
mean the government may enact a statute in support of it,
any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast
during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify
themselves in a sweat lodge, or practice rune magic.”

Judge Crabb’s quote caused me to wonder…how outraged would we be if the President issued a national proclamation for the practice of Islam or Wicca? Please don’t misunderstand—I’m not against the National Day of Prayer. It is a public reminder of our dependence on the Lord, the true source of our help and our freedoms.

Yes, “this country was built on Freedom & Prayer” (as the FaceBook message says). And yes, the United States was founded on Christian principles (despite some protestations to the contrary). And absolutely yes, our culture has become increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs and values, despite the fact that 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christian.

Still, many individual Christians live as if they are not accountable to the sovereign God who rules the universe. And elected officials who have appointed a judiciary that is dismantling our Christian heritage would not be in office if Christians hadn’t also voted for them.

Thomas Jefferson said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Many believe that Judge Crabb’s ruling will be overturned on appeal. Even so, Christians do need to stand for the values that made our nation great, including voting for those who will uphold these values, regardless of political party affiliation.

But the answer to society’s ills will not be found in elected officials—Republican or Democrat. And the lack of an official proclamation for the National Day of Prayer does not forbid us to pray in our homes, churches, or even in Washington, whether today, the first Thursday in May, or any other day. How many of the 76% of Americans who profess to be Christian began today with prayer? How many will do so tomorrow?

What do you think?