While much can be said about politics in the 21st century, the Bible is not concerned with it as much as we are. Instead the Bible is more concerned with citizenship. A simple definition would classify a citizen as a person with the personal and civil rights of living in his own land. But the term “citizen” has other important meanings in Scripture. In Old Testament times citizenship was racial and religious particularly in terms of Israel. To be a citizen of Israel required the person to be a descendant of Abraham because that lineage tied one into the covenant relationship God had with the nation. Lawrence Richards wrote, “This fact, not whether one lived within the nation’s boundaries, fixed Hebrew identity. A person of another race or faith, even if they lived in the Promised Land, remained an alien.”
By New Testament times a person was deemed a citizen by determining the country of his origin. That person was subject to the laws of that land no matter where he traveled. This is evident in Paul’s actions against the early believers whom he followed to Damascus under the auspices of the Sanhedrin (Acts 9:1-2). In the Roman Empire citizenship also became a political concept but not in the sense of opposing parties such as we have. A person with Roman citizenship was treated as if they were a resident of Rome itself. Wherever Roman citizens went throughout the Empire they were subject only to Roman courts and laws. Roman citizens could not be examined by torture or imprisoned before a trial, could travel freely and seek protection from the local Roman garrison. The severity of denying a Roman citizen proper legal action can be seen in several NT accounts where Paul is unjustly imprisoned such as in Philippi (Acts 16:37-40) and Jerusalem (Acts. 22:25-26).
Understanding the significance of citizenship in the NT is key to understanding many passages in the Epistles like Eph. 2:19 (all believers are citizens of God’s kingdom) and Phil. 3:20 (our citizenship is in heaven). Passages like these teach that 1) as believers we are responsible to the higher laws of heaven and are obligated to live first by those standards and not those of humankind, and 2) we have privileges as citizens of heaven like those of Rome’s earthly version. Many think this understanding of our citizenship in heaven as being grounded in the Roman concept. However Psalm 87 demonstrates that citizenship was important in OT times too as it celebrates by divine decree that people from Egypt, Babylon and elsewhere are “born in Zion” (Ps. 87:4) making them “citizens” of a heavenly kingdom the same as the Jews. It’s fine to be proud of the earthly citizenship we have, just as Paul clearly was. But our first allegiance as “citizens” is always to God’s kingdom and the principles of that Heavenly Kingdom should govern how we live (1 Pet. 2:13-17) and yes, even vote, in this earthly one.
Our guide is God’s Word, the Scriptures, which teaches us how God thinks about any issue we find ourselves considering as we decide on who or what to vote for. In this light, it is more important that we know about the platform a candidate proposes rather than their political affiliation, i.e. party. Instead of asking whether or not we like the person who is running for office we should be asking what platform they subscribe to. What do they intend to do if elected? How will they accomplish these goals? And most importantly, how do these goals compare and match up to God’s goals and standards?
I believe there are several key points that must be examined in light of Scripture and political platforms in this election. The first and most compelling is the value of life, both of the living and yet to be born. Lev. 24:17-22 and Ps. 139:13-16 form the basis of what Scripture teaches here but the greatest example of our value is Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross. The sanctity of and right to life undergirds every other right listed in our Constitution. The second involves our relationship with Israel. Perhaps the most compelling Scripture to shape our dealings with Israel is Gen. 3:1-3 (see v. 3). Simply put a platform that dictates the U. S. should turn its back on or divide Israel’s sovereign land is not in line with the teaching of Gen. 3. The third involves the document that forms the foundation of our country- the Constitution. The authors of that document may have had different opinions on God, but they all believed that due to Him every American had certain rights, just as the citizens of ancient Rome did. If these historic words are redefined or reshaped according to an ideology other than the one of our founders, we will no longer have the individual rights such as Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Religion the Constitution gives us. Instead those concepts will be replaced by a secular government’s mandated and imposed definition of them. Once lost, they will be nearly impossible to regain. Therefore I believe it is up to each person to consider this question when they vote: Am I voting for a man or am I voting for a platform that reflects the values of my Heavenly citizenship? May God’s Word guide you to the answer.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre