“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” - Romans 13:1 (NIV)
CITIZENSHIP is our social conscientiousness in action for the management and tempering of ourpersonal freedoms and liberties on behalf of the greater good of civil peace and prosperity. It is defined as being a good citizen by being a good Christian in our place of dwelling. It sees those in civic leadership as God’s representatives, whose occupation is for the benefit of society in general thus, also benefitting the Church. It is expressed as Patriotism and Loyalty in honour of one’s nationality.
God is calling us to be good citizens no matter what government “controls” us. We are called to obey the will of God this, as hard as it is to take, is he will of God, no matter what the qualifications or spirituality of the leadership. Being a good citizen is about our liberty, our freedom in Christ, and being responsible with it. Christ’s work has freed us, but that does not mean we can do whatever pleases us.
Christians in all times and places have struggled to understand how the call to serve God might be answered in their public lives as citizens. Biblical texts suggest their citizenship involves much more than simply obeying or disobeying the laws; it involves a basic understanding of our relationship to God and to other human being, including those in positions of authority.
For God’s people citizenship is one aspect of the web of social relationship within which their lives have meaning. In Exodus 22:28 Moses tells the people of Israel, ‘’Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.’’ Moses command is part of a long list of laws that tells how the people of Israel are to treat one another, and it emphasizes the fact that their relationship with God is reflected in their behaviour toward each other and toward their leaders. This same idea is apparent in Ezra 6:hose occupation is for the benefit of society as well “…so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king ad is sons.”
Old Testament passages such as those mentioned above also reveal the Israelites’ belief that the power held by those in authority came from God. The leaders who are chosen by Moses are told that each decision ‘’comes from God’’ “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgement belongs to God.“Deuteronomy 1:17. When the people want to choose a king they are told ‘’to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses’’ – Deuteronomy 17:15. If the leaders fail to govern according to the laws they have received, however, God withdraws divine favour and power, causing them to lose their authority over the people.
God’s people understood that the web of social relationship within which they lived carried with it certain obligations, some of which had to do with civic responsibility. Jeremiah, writing to the exiles in Babylon, advised them to ‘’do good things for the city where I sent you as captives’’- Jeremiah 29:7. The people of Israel were forced to leave their homeland, yet Jeremiah’s words indicate that they were to work for the good of the city to which they have been exiled ‘’because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also.’’ Even in exile the people of Israel did not live in isolation; their well-being was tied to the well-being of the community in which they lived.
Like the Israelites before them, the early followers of Jesus believed that God ordered human affairs and empowered authorities’ to rule. Paul writes to the Christians in Rome that they ‘’must submit to the governing authorities’’ because their power comes from God – Romans 13:1. This does not mean that they are to blindly submit to their rulers; rather, it is an acknowledgment of the fact that the relationship of the people to their leaders was patterned on their relationship to God.
Paul tells the Christians in Rome that they are to fulfill their civic responsibilities: ‘’Give everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes, if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.’’ – Romans 13:7.But he is also clear that the believer must place one law above all others-the Law of Love-‘’because the person who loves others has obeyed all the law’’ – Romans 13:8. These statements, like those of Moses in Exodus, appear in a discussion about how believers are to behave toward one another, which again emphasizes the idea that God’s people were expected to act consistently across a whole web of relationships, both public and private.
The earliest followers of Jesus lived in a world that was hostile to the message they proclaimed. They sought to overcome that hostility and to proclaim the Good News, not by promoting political insurrection or civil unrest, but by being model citizens. These Christians knew that the Good News would not be heard or believed if they themselves did not live by the law of love about which they spoke. Thus they are to ‘’pray for rulers’’ – 1 Timothy 2:2, ‘’to obey them, to be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace, and to be gentle and polite to all people’’ – Titus 3:1. The same idea is echoed in1 Peter 2:16-17: ‘’Live as servants of God. Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family, respect God, honor the king.’’
Like all of God’s people, we are challenged to make our faith more than a ‘’Sunday only’’ experience. The earliest followers of Jesus knew that it was not enough to tell about Good News; they had to witness their belief publicly through their everyday actions. Each time we act as citizens-when we speak out on an issue, or vote, or even pay taxes-we have an opportunity to show others that we live by the law of love which Scripture proclaims. And each time we ‘’look for peace and work for it’’ – 1 Peter 3:11 we demonstrate our understanding of the fact that the lives of all people are woven together in God’s web.
Culled from the Holy Bible – New Century Version
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You are graciously invited to the Harmonious Chorale 5th Anniversary Grand Concert scheduled for Sunday, 28thOctober, 2012 at College of Physicians and Surgeons (Ridge Round About, Accra) at 4.00 pm. Please come and let us thank the Lord for His infinite and abundant grace!!
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