So extensive, far-reaching and comprehensive are the implications of embracing a world and life view, that there is virtually no subject that can be discussed, no field of study entered upon, nor any opinion and judgment rendered without reflecting such a world and life view.
Here too, we again observe the practical application and the implications of what it means to be a Christian a child of God in the sphere of “civics.”
Too often, all manner of compromise is conveniently made in the sphere of “civics” without even being aware of the fact that when such compromise is made, significant and fundamental truths of Scripture are belied. Perhaps this is due to the fact (in part, at least) that one is apt to conclude, the civic responsibility of the Christian is comparatively simple and clear-cut, since to present this matter, is to answer it. However, the truth is that once considered, it can be quite complex; complex that is, if you do, not proceed from the fundamental approach of the Scriptures. Therefore, to determine the civic responsibility of the Christian, it stands to reason that we must define these terms.
In the first place, what do we mean when we speak of “civic responsibility?” Civic is that which has to do with the citizen. The science of civics has to do with the citizen and with the rights and the duties of that citizen. However, the reference is not to the rights and the duties of the citizen as they concern the national, but as they concern the local scene—the community. Hence, when one speaks of civics, he speaks of that which “surveys local community life within the nation.” In the final analysis, you understand, whatever happens on the local level, determines what shall happen on the national level because, as one writer states: “The whole machinery of government—the wheels within wheels—pivot on the man with the ballot. He is the government.” Of course, while this is certainly contrary to the Scriptures, it is the presupposition upon which this country functions. If other words, the theory of democracy is founded on the activity of the individual.
Civic responsibility, then, in light of what we have said, would have to do with the responsibility or the obligation of the citizen, in connection with whatever rights and duties he possesses as a citizen. How must the citizen, then, walk? But now, remember, this article is concerned with the civic responsibility of the Christian. Hence, in the second place, let us ask: Who is the Christian?
When we speak of the Christian, this is not to be understood as though the average “church-goer” is meant. The reference is not to the “nominal” church member who reveals an interest (regardless of degree) in everyday civic affairs. On the contrary, the title of this article has to do with the covenant child; that one who professes to walk in the sphere of God’s covenant, as manifested in the midst of this world. We speak of that one who is a Christian citizen, but a Christian first. That means his citizenship is in heaven (Philip. 3:20) and therefore he is a citizen of the heavenly kingdom and subject to the Most High God, first.
Yet, in the midst of the world in which the Lord had given him a name and a place, and through which he must pass as a spiritual pilgrim, he is also a citizen of a particular earthly country. Thus, in this capacity, recognizing and confessing that, there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1), he subjects himself “unto the higher powers.” He submits “to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (I Peter 2:13-14). He is subject to principalities and powers, obeys magistrates and is “ready to every good work.” (Titus 3:1) And, he renders unto Caesar “the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21)
It is therefore the civic responsibility of such a one that must be determined; the civic responsibility of theheavenly citizen who must sojourn in the midst of this world, for a season. That we identify the Christian, you see, is important because this enables us to get the proper prospective—to see the relation of civic responsibility to the “Christian and therefore ask: What must this Christian do with these “rights?” What is his duty, as a citizen of this world?
Without any fear of contradiction, I dare say, this “cry” of “civic responsibility” has many-a-time been used as a “cloak” by Christians to simply justify their participation in these so-called civic affairs. But the error of this will be established, as we consider a number of significant questions.
What is the calling of a Christian? What is the calling of that one whom God has called from the darkness into His marvelous light? For what purpose did God work in the heart of His child, by the irresistible operation of His Holy Spirit? To save him from his sins and misery and lead him unto everlasting glory? Yes, but of even more significance is the truth that he whom the Lord delivers “should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (Eph. 1:12) That His child, exalted and seated “together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” might forevermore sing the Song of Moses and worship Him who, alone, is worthy of worship, saying: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:11) This, the Lord purposed to realize in His people, as they continue through the earthly pilgrimage fighting the good fight of faith and earnestly contending for the faith which was delivered unto them.
Therefore, you see, in determining the civic responsibility of the Christian, it is very right and proper to inquire—to ask concerning the motives that prompt one to be “sensitive” to his “civic responsibility.” Underlying all this civic interest, what is it that gives rise to this activity?
This is a very important question for the child of God because it is no different than asking him: “Is the glory of God the moving impulse for the concern over your civic responsibility?” Important, too, because whatever the Christian does must be motivated by the glory of God’s Name.
You can see that what we have done thus far, is to prepare the ground for now inquiring into motives, desires, purposes, and the like. This, we have done by raising some questions, and also by setting forth some fundamental principles of Scripture which, in turn, can be developed.
By way of illustrating the matter of civic responsibility, it must be readily admitted that we cannot possibly examine all the activities toward which one is ordinarily considered to have some responsibility—whether by personal and direct participation, or by indirect participation, such as donations and contributions. Furthermore, it is not necessary to examine such civic activities in order to determine the Christian’s responsibility.
The Christian, you see, proceeds from the Word of God. He knows his calling and his responsibility; not only in the sphere of “civics” but in every sphere, throughout his whole life and walk. The fact that he does not always walk in the light of that calling, is another matter. But we must not assume that the Christian is ignorant of his calling before God and in the midst of this world.
Therefore, it is only necessary to simply state this calling. For in this calling is also embodied all the Christian’s motives, desires, and purposes; and thus, it will readily be seen as to how he differs from the world.
Remember, it is the world that cries loudest about civic responsibility. It is the world that always points to “civic pride” and reminds the citizen of his “civic“and “patriotic” duty. Therefore, it is the world, too, that urges the citizen to enter politics and vote, and calls upon him to support one “worthy” cause, and another. But why? Is the world motivated by the glory of God’s Name? Does the world purpose that all things redound to the praise and the glory of the most high God? To ask this question, is to answer it. Of course not! The world purposes improvement, betterment, and reform. The ungodly cannot see and therefore, do not acknowledge that the world and “the fashion of this world passeth away” (I Cor. 7:31) hence, they exert all their efforts and endeavors in trying to reform and advance this world in which they live. And furthermore, they expect all to join hands and take part in their so-called “united” efforts.
And the sad part of this commentary on the ungodly and their civic activities is the fact that they have convinced many professing. Christians of their “civic responsibility;” Hence, from time to time, during the course of a year, these Christians become all “wrapped-up” in their “civic responsibility.” It may be during an election year or perhaps a time when one of those “worthy” causes is being promoted, and they are given some position on a committee and work to perform. At any rate, they become so “wrapped-up” and enthused over their “civic responsibility” that they lose their identity as a Christian—as they mingle together with the ungodly, and “spend” themselves in the cause of “civic responsibility.”
One often wonders what would happen if these Christians would exert as much faithful and conscientious effort in contending for the truth of God’s Word, as they so often do in connection with these other mundane affairs. Strange as it may seem, these same Christians are at no loss for words to express themselves and “fight” for their views when they are in. the sphere of “civic activity,” but how different it is when the matter of spiritual subjects arise.
But now, what about these Christians who join hand-in-hand with the world? What about that one who professes to be a child of God and can yet “hob-nob? with the ungodly, in civic affairs? What must be the reason for this kind of conduct? Is it truly because one’s “civic responsibility” is SO keenly felt? Or, is it just a matter of “self”—where such a one sees an opportunity for a little recognition? Perhaps, it could even be that he who professes to be a Christian isafraid to bear the reproaches of Christ and hence, conveniently avoids them under the guise of “civic responsibility”—gaining the well-wishes of the world.
How can such a one ever explain the truth that God’s people are a separated and an isolated people—a people who are pilgrims and strangers? That, because of their very distinctiveness, while they are in the world, they are surely not of the world and therefore, they are isolated in the spiritual sense of the word. As far as the world and the ungodly of that world are concerned, they are: “to come out from among them, and be separate . . . and touch not the unclean thing . . . to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, rather reprove them.”
Actually, then, what is the calling of the Christian regarding “civic responsibility?” Is it not simply that he should be a living epistle, read of all men? Does not the “civic responsibility” of the Christian, as, does all his responsibility and his calling; does it not resolve itself in this: That he walk antithetically in the midst of this world? Isn’t that what we, as Protestant Reformed people, have always maintained? That, as the people of God, we walk from the new principle of regeneration, and that we reveal ourselves as belonging to the household of faith—in every sphere of life? So that, we oppose the light of God’s Word to all darkness—the truth to all falsehood and that which is righteous and holy to all corruption.
The antithesis, then, is preserved in the whole life and walk of the child of God. What does this imply? It implies that declaring. God’s truth, without any apology, all sin, evil, and corruption is exposed and denounced. That means, too, the motives and purposes which are often clearly revealed as one begins to move about in those circles that are so concerned with performing civic duties; these, too, must be condemned.
If that is your purpose for engaging in all manner of civic labors—to expose the corruption which you know is found therein and to call men to repentance by declaring God’s truth and thus, maintain the antithesis, no one can find fault with such purposes.However, we know this is not possible. Declare thisto be your purpose unto those with whom you intend to labor in civic affairs and rest assured, you will never have an opportunity to fulfill your so-called “civic responsibility.”
Furthermore, it isn’t necessary that you “hob-nob” and mingle with the ungodly in these so-called civic affairs. That isn’t necessary to maintain the antithesis and let your light shine. As we said, very often that is just an excuse to enjoy some of the pleasures of this world.
You don’t fulfill your “civic responsibility” by exercising every one of your “rights” and “duties.” You don’t, for instance, fulfill your “civic responsibility” by voting for a candidate, even though you are certain he is notsuited, but is nevertheless the “best” choice of the candidates for the office. There is no law that says you must vote, even though you are convinced in your soul that there is no candidate who purposes to serve the cause of God’s kingdom. As a child of God, how can you vote under such circumstances? You don’t fulfill your calling by “voting” or by participating in the sphere of civics, but by walking in the way of the antithesis, and this way is the way of the covenant.
Of course, no one can deny that the people of God are to support all civic enterprises and projects that are rooted and grounded in the truth and thus,proceed from the fear of God. BUT, where are there such projects? Where is there such civic activity? Common grace is able to find them everywhere. Yes, but look at the fruit common grace is bearing.
Don’t you see how far-reaching are the implications of naming the name of Christ and confessing that you are one with Him? And since this does not seem to be the concern over which the Christian outside of our own circles need be alarmed, don’t you see the implications of being Protestant Reformed?
Remember, the ungodly and the wicked serve God’s people. The reprobate serve the elect, as is clearly seen in the sphere of civics too. It is the Lord who raises up these things, by His mighty hand. So that, the wicked in their wickedness, strive to assure the nation of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and of the “Four Freedoms.” And thuds, desiring these things for themselves and as avenues for the free expression of their wickedness, they secure them for all. But actually, under the Mighty hand of God, in this way they only continue to fill their measure of iniquity.
But God’s, people live alone, and living alone they fillthey fill their measure of blessing. They are in the world and yet, not of it. They walk antithetically—even in the sphere of civic affairs.