Civic Duty is a Christian Duty

In light of the Current Unpleasantness, let us consider that God commands His people to be good citizens in their earthly kingdoms. The Lord tells the exiles in Babylon, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jer 29.4-7, emphasis mine). This is the language of active civic duty.

What might this entail? Consider that one of Jeremiah's most prominent readers was Daniel. Daniel 9 opens with the prophet reading Jeremiah's "Letter to the Exiles,” the same text in which the Lord tells his people to "seek the welfare of the city.” Had Daniel not been seeking Babylon’s welfare from the moment he arrived? He served as a high-ranking minister to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius, both of whom trusted him deeply. His service as minister required learning the literature and language of the Chaldeans, which would have included pagan rituals and magic. If this is the picture of one who "seeks the welfare of the city," then what shall we say of ourselves? Is it too beyond the pale for us to cast votes, to advocate for just laws, or to love and own the country of our birth when the prophet Daniel learned heathen customs for the sake of an adopted country?

The New Testament confirms civic duty as a universal principle. John's Revelation portrays Rome as a new Babylon destined for the cosmic rubbish heap, yet the Holy Spirit compelled early Christians to honor and obey the Roman Empire. Peter writes, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor" (1 Pet 2.13-17). Paul writes similarly in Rom 13.1-7 and 1 Tim 2.1-2.

For most of my childhood and my adult life, I have heard Christians of various stripes bemoaning Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump as if each of them was going to be the end of the country (lo and behold, they were not). Brothers, this grumbling should be foreign to us. If early Christians were to honor Roman Emperors like Caligula, the infamous pervert who wanted to erect a statue of himself in the Temple, and Titus, who sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, then what do we have to say for ourselves?

In general, then, our duty as Christians is to "seek the welfare of the city" and to "honor the emperor." Our current circumstances call for unity, for patience, and for selflessness. Let us pray for our country, for our leaders in Washington, for our state, for our leaders in Tallahassee, for our city, and for our leaders here. Let us curb our own desires, preferring our neighbors’ wellbeing above our own. And let us cast our cares upon Christ and ask for the blessings of God.