Christians and Civil Service

Unfortunately, we think your friend has oversimplified a very complicated issue. Here at Focus on the Family we don't believe that the United States is a "Christian nation." Biblically speaking, there is not and cannot be any such thing as a "Christian nation"-as Jesus put it, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

This is not to say, of course, that nations – even very imperfect nations – can't incorporate biblical principles and significant elements of the Christian worldview into their foundational documents, their governmental policies, and their cultural values. This, we would suggest, is exactly what our Founding Fathers were trying to do when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and framed the Constitution of the United States. We feel that this was an honorable and legitimate endeavor.

Apparently your friend subscribes to what might be termed an "anarchical" view of the Christian's relationship with the state. We'll acknowledge that his opinion is not without good precedent: most of the so-called "radical reformers" of the sixteenth century – the founders of such groups as the Mennonites, the Hutterites, and the Amish – also believed that true disciples of Jesus cannot participate in war or serve as officers of the law or have anything to do with the activities of human governments.

We respect that viewpoint here at Focus. At the same time, we can't help feeling that it fails to do justice to the full counsel of Scripture. We think Martin Luther was on firmer ground when he said, "Temporal government is preserved not only by laws and rights, but by divine authority," and "The magistracy (i.e., civil officialdom) is a necessary state of the world and to be held in honor; therefore we ought to pray for magistrates" (from Luther's Table Talk). Luther believed and taught that Christians can in good conscience serve the state as soldiers, judges, policemen, and other elected officials. As I'm sure you are aware, there is plenty of biblical support for his assertions (see Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; Titus 3:1, 2; and 1 Peter 2:13-17)

Bottom line: Christians as Christians are not authorized in most cases to use force or exercise worldly authority in the battle against sin and evil. But the state is, and to the extent that they can do so without denying Christ or compromising their faith, Christians are responsible to cooperate with the state to the very best of their ability. In light of this, we'd suggest that you're right on track in your desire to serve the Lord by serving your country and your local community.

If you'd like to discuss this subject at greater length with a member of our team, call our staff of pastoral counselors.

 

Resources
Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just

Personal Faith, Public Policy

God and Government: An Insider's View on the Boundaries Between Faith & Politics

How Now Shall We Live?

Serving God in our Culture

Referral
Family Policy Alliance

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