Last time, we talked about teaching our children that their citizenship in God’s kingdom takes priority over any national allegiance. While this is so, we should also make them aware that heavenly citizenship carries with it a responsibility to help our nation be a stable, God-honoring place to live, where all people are treated with dignity and are able to live out the purpose for which they were born.
Although not perfect, and certainly not on a par with the Bible, the U. S. Constitution was largely founded on biblical principles and, I believe, bears the stamp of having been inspired by the Lord for this nation. We should be diligent to use and actively preserve the freedoms laid out in the Constitution — always for Christ’s glory and for the well-being of those around us.
Some Christians take the position that Jesus and the apostles did not try to influence the government of their day, and that therefore we should not get involved either. However, conditions were quite different back then. There was not much freedom afforded to most of the people under the Roman Empire. Since we do have certain clearly stated freedoms, we should exercise them.
There is biblical precedence for this. The apostle Paul, when he was about to be whipped without a trial, asserted his rights as a Roman citizen to avoid scourging (Acts 22:25-29). At another time, he insisted on his right to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:9-12). So, we see that he exercised his rights as a citizen to the full extent they existed.
God desires for some of us to be activists in government. That might mean running for political office or assisting others who are running or are already elected. Becoming informed and informing others, so that we can contact leaders on specific issues, is another avenue of participation in the governmental process.
Focusing a lot of time and effort on these activities is not for everyone. However, we can all help to make our country better through voting wisely and by praying for our leaders and even would-be leaders. We should ingrain these patriotic duties into our children.
In our day, when respect for leaders is almost nonexistent, we must also teach our children what the Bible says about honoring those in public office. I know, I know. It is difficult to keep a civil tongue about unrighteous politicians who abuse their positions or exhibit a lack of integrity.
Even the apostle Paul didn’t control his tongue completely at all times. In Acts 23:1-5, he was hauled before the Jewish council. The high priest, who at this point in Israel’s history was an elected governmental official besides being the spiritual leader, commanded that Paul be struck across the face. In outrage, Paul reacted, “God shall smite you, you whited wall! Do you sit in judgment over me according to the law, and yet command me to be smitten contrary to the law?”
Paul was angry, and rightly so! He had been treated unjustly. But, when he was reprimanded for being disrespectful toward the high priest, he acknowledged his error: “I did not realize, brethren, that he was the high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.'” Although the high priest had done wrongly, Paul was not justified in responding poorly himself.
Respect for leaders was Paul’s consistent theme throughout his epistles. Take a look at Romans 13:1-8, for instance. We should teach our children, using the Bible as our textbook, to respect those who bear governmental authority. However, we must also teach them by example — not permitting ourselves to descend into angry name-calling when we don’t like what our leaders are doing. And, if we fail, openly repenting for our wrong speech also teaches by example.
Paul also said, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). Bringing Christ-honoring “salt” into discussions, and at the same time staying gracious with our words, takes restraint and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. But that is what we need in this hour. And that is what we must instill in our children, too.
Next time we’ll talk about how prayer brings change to a nation, and how our children can be a part of that.