About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
The Challenge Of Duel Citizenship
As Christians, we are citizens of the nation in
which we live, as well as citizens of the
citizenship is in heaven. And
we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,"
Our duel citizenship
sometimes presents us with a perplexing challenge, as seems to be the case
today when governments are mandating churches to shut down their meetings
during the Covid 19 crisis. Do
churches comply with government or do they comply with the Bible's encouragement to gather together? Here
is what Romans 13:1 says.
"Let every soul be
subject unto the higher powers [government].
For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are
ordained of God."
On the other hand, here
is what Acts 5:29 says.
"Then Peter and the
other apostles answered and said, 'We ought to obey
God rather than men.'"
After reading the above
verses, whom do we obey? Submission
to the state as taught in the New Testament is a much larger issue than I
can address here. I refer you
to how Paul dealt with this issue because I believe he represented New
Testament thinking concerning this matter.
Paul's life demonstrates
that he did submit to the state as much as he could, even when the state
was an oppressive dictatorship. One
time he spoke a few nasty words to a Jewish leader.
Once discovering the leader was the high priest, out of respectful
submission, he immediately apologized.
Acts 23:5 reads:
'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high
priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak
evil about the ruler of your people.'"
If Paul was forced to
choose between obeying Jesus or the state, he chose Jesus and willingly
accepted being punished for his civil disobedience.
Acts 25:11 reads:
"If, however, I am
guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die.
Paul was executed by
Nero's regime around 64 AD. If
he had been willing to comply with the state he might have escaped death,
but he didn't. He followed his
own teaching. In submission to the states, he
willingly accepted his head being sliced from his shoulders as the
consequence of his civil disobedience.
When it comes to the
first principles of our faith, we, like Paul, obey God rather than the
state and willingly accept the consequences for our civil disobedience.
On all secondary issues of faith, including not gathering together
in person, we obey government. We
cease to gather in order to maintain a positive Christian testimony to the
state and its population. We
do so out of love for those we want to lead to Jesus.
If our gatherings help spread the virus, as some have, we destroy
the very witness for Jesus we claim to be.