From reading the scriptures, I believe I have the following obligations as a citizen:
Acknowledge the authority of the government (1 Peter 2:13-17)
Pray for those who are in charge (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Pay taxes (Mark 12: 13-17)
Nothing about being required to help shape the government. Nothing about trying to get more moral laws put into place. Nothing about political activism whatsoever. Seriously. Find a place where Jesus does absolutely anything that’s aimed at accomplishing political ends.
At the time he was in Israel, it was dominated by a brutal Roman regime. Does Jesus say anything about revolt or uprising? About people being freed from its authority? About how God wants them to have a democracy?
I haven’t been able to find any of those ideas so far.
You may think I’m being anti-American. I’m absolutely not. I’m not about to go into some diatribe about how terrible America is or some such silliness. America is one country out of almost 200 countries on earth. I don’t think God loves it more or less than Uzbekistan, Peru or Turkey. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving your country. But I do think we must be careful not to confuse patriotism with the call to be in a relationship with God.
I recall the story of Jonah; a man who put his nationalistic zeal above God’s will.
See, Nineveh (capital of the Assyrian Empire) is involved in some pretty bad interactions with Israel. At one point, they took almost 30,000 captives from Israel and Israel at times had to pay tribute to Assyria. You can probably understand then, when a man who loved Israel with all his heart was told to go and lead Nineveh into repentance so God would forgive them, why he instead chose to run in the exact opposite direction.
Jonah’s love for his country prevented him from serving the kingdom of God in that instance. I don’t think it’s evil to love your country and support it, but it is critical to make sure we are seeking first the kingdom of God.
When the apostles are confronted by the Sanhedrin in Acts 5, at no point do they question the authority of those in government. Even in their disobedience (“We must obey God rather than man (v.29)), they accept the punishment given to them. In fact, they rejoice in their punishment (v.41).
I do not believe that politics is how God plans for his kingdom to come and his will to be down on earth as it is in heaven.
I believe the government should govern. That’s the job God has given it. But I do not believe I am called to realize the kingdom of heaven through the machinery of politics or government. The kingdom of heaven is much larger. The idea that politics could even begin to encompass God’s purposes is a joke. Sadly, it’s a joke that many people have bought into. Legislating morality, imposing monolithic standards on large groups of people; some people view this as not only being their right, but their duty.
Jesus didn’t try to find ways to back people into a corner where they had no choice but to do what he said. He didn’t look for ways to force his preferences upon everyone else. He loved, he accepted, he inspired. The only people he got furious with? Those who were trying to force people into a religious paradigm.
Politics is the art of gaining, keeping and using power. I serve a God who, by example, demonstrated that it’s my job to serve. Those who want power can have it. I’ve got more important things to do.