Our Heritage of Citizenship
by Patrick Hurd

I remember, as a student of the public schools in the 1960s, being introduced to the outdated nationalistic practice of “flag-waving.” Flag-wavers were those folks who bragged too much about the superior characteristics of their own country to folks who lived in other countries. Apparently, Americans had gained a reputation prior to and during WWI and WWII of being flag-wavers. However, as it was taught to me during Social Studies, flag-waving was a thing of our past. I had to agree. It sure didn’t line up with what I was seeing on television.

I suppose the Korean War just wasn’t as popular as WWII, the Bay of Pigs was a national embarrassment on a global scale, the Cold War kept a chill on the spirit of our nation, and people seemed to be really tiring of the Vietnam “conflict.” Somewhere in all of this, flag-waving greatly suffered. In fact, you might say we dropped the flag. Today, instead of a country of flag-wavers, it is thought that we need a constitutional amendment to stop the citizens from burning the flag. Yes, you’ve come a long way baby.

But it wasn’t always that way. In a speech delivered by John Quincy Adams on July 4th, 1837, Quincy wondered aloud with the crowd why Christmas and July 4th were the two most significant holidays of our country. Quincy stated, “Is it not that in a chain of human events the birthday of a nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it affords a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized a social compact on a foundation of the redeemers solution upon earth? That it lay the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”

In his farewell address, George Washington stated that the two foundations for political prosperity in America were religion and morality and that no one could be considered an American patriot who ever attempted to separate politics from its two foundations.

Today, the idea of what it means to be a respectable citizen of the United States has been redefined by a generation who was greatly affected by the practical implications of citizenship. Picture Al Gore thirty years ago at a sing-a-long with Peter, Paul, and Mary (“Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing? When will they ever learn?”) and one gets a better (or worse) perspective of today’s agenda that is defining good and bad citizenship. Forty years ago, illegal drug use was scarce and kept behind closed doors. Now it is fashionable to have the strung out appearance of a heroine addict. Even ten years ago a soldier would never be caught out of uniform by wearing a garment of another country’s military. Gads!! That would be treason!! Today, a soldier has been dishonorably discharged for upholding his oath of service by refusing to wear alien military garb. What was well hid away in the closet now brashly comes out of the closet on television and parades itself up and down the main drags of public parades. One’s attitude toward certain minority and/or special interest issues could be the difference between pass and fail in citizenship. Some might say that the inmates of the 1960s have truly taken over the asylum of the 1990s.

Standards of citizenship effect every sphere of life we involve ourselves in: work, business, church, family, acquaintances, and especially individually within our own selves. Each sphere is going to have its own set of rules that define a good member versus a bad member. The employer expects his employees to be punctual, families will have standards of obedience, business men expect honest transactions, etc . . . Having duties and responsibilities in each of these areas, we have dynamically simultaneous relationships with others also working within each area. The pressure brought to bear on each of us as we interface with others within the various spheres of life is to compartmentalize our life with differing standards of ethics (i.e., adhering to differing standards in differing situations). Perhaps I’m an honest business man, but I don’t mind lying to my wife. Conflicts within the individual that arises from such compartmentalization of ethics are the result of individuals who establish themselves as the author and enforcer of their own standard of ethics. While conflicts will always arise between differing standards who compete for supremacy over the individual, there should never be an internal struggle within the Christian who acknowledges God's standards as supreme over all other competing systems.

The serious Christian is going to resist this tendency toward subjective relativism (i.e., every man doing that which is right in his own eye) as he will in every area of ethics. While resistance is good, Jesus' Great Commission obligates us not only to resist but to advance the correct standard and application of proper citizenship. Parents (who, if home schooling, are likely required by law to be teaching their children citizenship) are to know the foundations of biblical citizenship as well as the attitudes and actions that support or erode those foundations. Equipping and training our children in biblical citizenship is the first step in our duty to reverse the tide of declining citizenship not only of those outside the Kingdom of God, but also of those who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ yet whose loyalties are split and compromised.

As Christians, our citizenship is from heaven and, therefore, the standards that define good citizenship and bad citizenship also originate from God's throne room. His standards are comprehensive, covering all of creation and all of life. As Kingdom of God citizens, we don't leave His standards of citizenship behind and adopt other standards when we leave the church building. Instead, we are to take the standards of rightful citizenship in the Kingdom of God and apply those standards to every area of our lives.

A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN

Let's just dive right into the main issue of citizenship: rules. It seems to be especially true of our fallen nature to disdain rules. But not altogether, for we like for everyone else to be subject to the rules while preferring to hold ourselves aloof. Our two-year-old Allison exemplifies this fact of human nature best as she is the latest to take on the role of enforcer. She has no problem advising us that one of her siblings has broken a rule and needs a spanking. In fact, she's pretty merciless. But when it comes to facing her own lack of obedience, well, it becomes a matter of negotiation in her mind. "Let's hold everyone else's feet to the fire, but I'm an exception," seems to be her train of thought. The same train of thought runs predominant throughout all of humanity.

Training in good citizenship begins at home. The family is the first place a person learns what it means to be subject to and obedient to the rules. It is within the family setting that the child first learns that there is a law-giver outside himself. As parents, we know that there must be rules in the home and compliance to those rules if the home is to be orderly and productive. Therefore, we communicate the rules of the house to those in the household and the expectation of compliance. The child learns that there are blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

Most agree that this kind of environment and training is a good thing for the child. We know that for the child to grow into a productive, law-abiding adult, he must be willing to submit to the rules of the family first and then to the rule of the larger household of our nation. To do otherwise, that is, to allow people to be the law-makers unto themselves, whether at home as children or in the larger family of our nation as adults, would be to promote anarchy and lead to the demise of our social order.

If law and order is necessary to prevent anarchy in the family and larger society, what about the church? Now there's a topic that will raise the neck hair of many a so-called kingdom citizen. Not that anyone thinks that there should not be a polity of rules for the administrative functions of the individual church bodies. No, the question is, “Are there any rules, any standards of Kingdom citizenship, that apply to the individual Christian and, if so, from where do they originate and how are they to be applied?”

To put it really blunt, the issue of Kingdom citizenship within the Church is a matter of Christian ethics. Unfortunately, it is usually presented as a choice between two alternative and competing ethical systems: law or grace. It is the unfortunate practice of pitting the two against each other, as if diametric opposites, that has crippled the church as a relevant influence in society. After all, if those are your only two choices, which would you choose? Before diving into the middle of a very controversial and emotional subject, and because you probably have an idea of where I'm heading anyway, let's first discuss the reason why this is a critical topic within the modern Church.

HAS GOD INDEED SAID?

There are only two systems of ethics that can be implemented at home, church, work, and society: God’s or not God’s. Since the temptation and fall in the garden, man is continually faced with the choice between God’s authentic life giving law-word and Satan’s counterfeit death producing anarchy-word. Evolutionism struck deep into the heart of man's convictions concerning his origins. Instead of a child of God, miraculously created in His image, he was nothing more than a product of millions of years of survival. Exchanging his Creator for mere survival, it became necessary to exchange the source of ethics: from a derivative of God to a reconstruction by man. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the growing lawlessness and rebellion in the children of this and the previous generation. It is the logical conclusion of a generation who was denied legal counsel from God at school, at church, and at the gates of government. Left with no other law-giver but man, he defaulted to his fallen nature, challenged the right of those in authority to be in authority, hitchhiked to California, and lived on the beach in perfect harmony with himself and nature. He “arrived,” becoming his own source of law. Sound familiar? The French Revolution is a good example of the consequences of man being his own source of law. So is the ongoing sexual revolution of America.

Not that we do not recognize that God has ordained positions of men to be law-givers (e.g., parents, employers, civil legislators). But they are never to be a law of and unto themselves. It is the difference between constructively reinterpreting God’s law for the circumstances of our day and destructive reconstruction; making up laws as we go along. Every system of ethics as instituted by man in the society they live must have its origins from God. To do otherwise is to have a godless system of ethics. Since we live in a fallen world, it is given that fallen man, given the job to administer God's law-system, is going to miss the mark of His righteousness. But that by no means gives us the right to throw up our hands and throw in the towel allowing unrighteousness to rule. God has so ordained His people with His law, written on their hearts and revealed by His Word, and commanded them to teach nations all that He has commanded.

MY SON, FORGET NOT MY LAW

The family is the God ordained institution designed and commissioned to train the children in all aspects of godliness. A child learns quickly that there can be several sources of law in his life. Sources of law include parents, older siblings, Sunday School teachers, coaches, tutors, and sundry other people that the child is placed under the authority of at different times of his childhood. The critical point is what the child is taught (either directly or by inference) with regards to the source of law for those sundry authority figures who rule the child’s behavior.

While the family is the initial training ground for the children, the Church is the ordained institution by which the parents are trained in rearing their children in Godliness and where the saints of God come together collectively to receive instruction in the application of God’s law for the issues of the day. No other institution (i.e., family or state) is going to do the training in Godliness. The family is dependent upon the Church, being vulnerable to the power of the state when left unprotected by the Church. The government of our day, having abandoned its Godly heritage in lieu of pluralistic egalitarianism, is the epitome of man centered lawlessness and has nothing to offer to anyone as far as a model of some set standard of conduct. Therefore, the Church, the God ordained steward of His holy and righteous judgements, is the only institution with the qualifications and tools to train a society in Godliness. The Church possesses the authentic garment.

However, the Church in America has led the way for the past 125 years in the effort to un-bench and disbar God from His rightful position as the one and only law-source for man. She suffers from the “Allison Syndrome.” Having dispensed with God’s standards of faithful citizenship, the Church is left with no other place to look for a source of ethics but to herself and the world. Accordingly, the Church in America, in her desire to be lusted for by the world, to make everyone comfortable and unthreatened at God’s altar, has made great strides in her appearance of social, political, and environmental correctness. She’s still irrelevant, but she looks good. So far has she slipped that recently a coalition of fifty “ministers” publicly cast their support for the forced removal of God’s Ten Commandments from a Georgia court room all in the name of religious freedom and church/state separation. But then, 35 years after the coup that evicted God from the public schools, this is just mopping up operations.

It is at this point that we reach the heart of the law/grace issue of the Christian faith. It is not the purpose of this article to argue the issue distinctively, but rather to suggest that there are obvious consequences in the Church and society of our day that are a direct result of the Church’s jettison of God’s law, as revealed in the whole of the Bible, as the standard of Christian and civil ethics. Please don’t misread or misinterpret what I am standing for here. As far as the salvation of man, there has never, ever, been any way to be saved nor will there ever be any way to be saved except by God’s merciful free grace, and that through faith. No law, not even God’s law, has ever, nor will it ever, save a man from eternal damnation.

But, after a man is saved, “How should we then live?” This is the question asked by Francis Schaeffer 21 years ago that the Church in America still refuses to answer. This is the question that cannot be trivialized away with passages like Colossians 2:6. This is the question that we must face if we intend to raise a generation equipped to bring the wisdom of God to bear on the issues of our nation.

CITIZENSHIP WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL

As Christians, our rights to Kingdom citizenship are based on God’s free and merciful adoption of us into His household. (Romans 8:14-17) Ezekiel 16:1-14 portrays a vivid picture of Israel’s condition (as well as each of us) prior to and immediately after God’s adoption of them into His household. The rest of the chapter recounts their faithlessness to their adoptive parent and the consequences thereof. As Christian parents, our household is to model for our children the same standards of good citizenship as those required of Kingdom citizens. By doing so, and by demonstrating to the child that the familial duties of citizenship are the same as the heavenly duties (as well as consequences for disobedience), the child learns that there is always a law-giver that transcends him; that he is never a law-giver unto himself.

There are at least two significant qualities of behavior derived from the Bible that suggest the difference between good and bad citizenship: devotion and loyalty. Both are important qualities to be modeled and learned in the home first and then applied in the larger household of the Church and nation. When the child is trained in the qualities of citizenship as they are taught to each Kingdom citizen from God’s word, the child learns that standards of obedience and blessings transcend the adult authorities in his life and will apply to him no matter what age or what circumstance he may find himself.

To be devoted to something or someone is to give all of one’s resources toward that something or someone willingly and enthusiastically. It is an attitude that the something or someone of devotion takes precedence over all other things. In many ways it is the opposite of selfishness. The Lord Jesus set the standard of devotion for Kingdom citizens when He answered a question quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matt 22:37) All of those “alls” just doesn’t leave much room for anything else. Not that we are to forsake everything else in our lives. Husbands are still commanded to love their wife, wives to honor their husband, and children to obey their parents. But the application of these kingdom responsibilities is to be initiated by and proceed from our devotion to God. In other words, the fact that I fulfill my duty to provide for my family does not, in of itself, commend me to God. There are lots of pagans who faithfully and devotedly provide for their families. For the Christian, the act of providing for one’s family (as well as all other Kingdom duties) is to originate from our unwavering devotion to our God and King. Therefore, providing for one’s family is not a matter of satisfying one’s self or the members of one’s family. It is a matter of devotion to God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind.

This may seem like an insignificant play on words, but the subtle difference is an important one. Since the industrialization and urbanization of our country, it seems that children have been increasingly taught that the family is there to serve the child, the family is to be devoted to the child, and the child is the center of all that happens. It is no wonder that the Christian young adult, about to leave the nest, has no practical concept of loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind. In fact, he doesn’t even know what it means. It can’t be done. There are too many other things going on in his life for him to be concerned with. So he marries and has kids. He provides for them because that’s what everyone expects him to do. Which is OK until she starts nagging him about his friends and his time away from home. Then he begins to remember the good ‘ol days when mom and dad catered to his every desire. Well, mom and dad might not do it anymore, but he sure can if he can ditch this nag and her kids and the rest is very familiar history in the life of one out of three marriages today.

Godly devotion must be taught to children at home beginning at a young age if the child is going to grasp the concept of devotion to God as an adult. The child learns that he is a part of a family who depends on him and his active participation in what the family is involved in. His whole life and being are surrounded and encompassed by the family, not the other way around. He is expected to participate in everything the family is doing and not encouraged to establish his own private schedule apart from the rest of the family. He is expected to know what his fellow family members are doing and to give his attention toward assisting them when necessary or required. This is how the child learns that there is a bigger world out there than what revolves around himself.

Having been trained in Godly devotion in a tangible family setting, the child-now-turned-adult is capable to serve as an ambassador of God’s invisible Kingdom in a lost and dying world. He provides for his family, loves his wife, takes his stand for God’s righteousness in the city gates not because it pleases him or because his wife expects it. He does it because it is the agenda of his King and because he is a responsible part of the kingdom’s work. He does it out of love and devotion to his Lord Jesus Christ. That is the subtle difference in training, in thinking, and in motivation that can make a huge impact on our nation.

Closely associated with devotion, loyalty implies unwavering allegiance to the ideas and cause of another. While commonly associated with fidelity between spouses, loyalty is historically associated with one’s allegiance to a sovereign, such as a prince or king. God commands His kingdom citizens to have His commandments in their heart, to teach them diligently to their children, to talk of them when you sit, walk, sleep, and arise. To bind them on our hands, to see the world through them as if eyeglasses, and to display them on our homes and the gates of the city. (Deut 6:6-8) In other words, there is no place for competing ideologies in God’s kingdom or among His citizenry.

One of the best kept secrets of the last 100 years is a historical fiction writer by the name of G. A. Henty. Known for his historical accurateness, Mr. Henty sets a fictitious character (usually a young man) with a significant historical figure at the time of a significant historical event. These are excellent read aloud books that the whole family (even dad) will look forward too. The vocabulary is excellent, there is little to no romance, and Henty’s fictional character is always one who demonstrates excellent character. The books are packed full of action, historical information, and commentary.

One of the qualities that has been amplified for us through his books is loyalty. His characters demonstrated their loyalty by their willingness to drop everything at the call of their sovereign lord. They would willingly die before standing by while their lord’s name was slandered or his cause maligned. Their lord’s cause and mission was their cause and mission. They were faithful messengers of his cause and mission, always ready to come to his service and carry valuable documents and instructions to other alliances. Accordingly, an important ingredient of Kingdom citizenship is being loyal to the standards, goals, and ideas of our King Jesus.

THEY HAVE DESPISED THE LAW OF THE LORD

However, the Church in America is having a real problem with devotion and loyalty. Feeling the pressure of an overwhelming number of competing ideologies and acquiescing to the demands of the phantom “Establishment Clause” of the revised First Amendment, she has demonstrated her willingness to conform to the requirements of society rather than demonstrate her determination to transform the world. In fact, for the most part, she will not even acknowledge the duty to transform the world by the power of the Gospel. More likely, her constituents consider such thinking to be one of the greater sins, second only to tithing. She has bought into humanistic compartmentalization that sees no connection between the one and the whole.

Still desirous to be faithful to The Great Commission, the Church in America focuses on the individual to the exclusion of the whole. What she has found, though, are people who have defined for themselves (since the Church will not) what are acceptable standards of citizenship. Being sensitive to the seeker, the Church protects the “guilt challenged” from the true nature of God by veiling His most embarrassing idiosyncrasies. Idiosyncrasies like His jealousness of devotion, His passionate hate of sin, and His insatiable obsession with justice. Having never been confronted with their lawlessness, their rebellion, and their sin, they have never been truly confronted with God’s merciful love.

Thus is the condition created when grace and law are polarized into opposite and competing corners. Having abandoned the standards of kingdom citizenship as found in God’s word, and adopted modern mass marketing strategies as her latest tool of evangelism, the Church has neutralized itself as the salt and light of the world that Jesus so commanded her to be. Accordingly, she may celebrate the power of the Gospel to transform the life of an individual, maybe a marriage, and perhaps even a family. But when it comes to a neighborhood, a community, a city, a state, or a nation, well, she’s not really sure that the Gospel was meant for such a purpose. The Church in America is standing at the door of treason against her King, the Lord Jesus.

CONCLUSION

Prior to the 1950s, nationalism reigned in the United States. Since that time, nationalism has taken a back seat to globalism while the cry for radical individualistic freedom and the official recognition of every conceivable subset of human persuasion has ushered in the present era of unprecedented egalitarianism. Within one generation, Americans have enthusiastically embraced pluralism as the standard of socio-economic ethics. Every conceivable heritage, from ethnic origination to sexual orientation, has the right (no, is due) to be free from any and all possible prejudices that might hinder the subgroup from superior status above every other subgroup that comes along. It is from this environment that political correctness has flourished in every area of our life in the country.

Consider what is already in place at our work places and schools: required sensitivity training for prejudices toward gender (other than male), ethnic (other than Caucasian) , AIDS, and sexual orientation (other than heterosexuals); environmental correctness that places environmental issues over human and property rights; Goals 2000, Outcome Based Education, and now, government enforced School-to-Work programs.

Of all the academic disciplines the law requires home schooling parents to teach their children, none is as subjective in content as citizenship. The shift in our national orientation, from individualistic nationalism to communal globalism, has already greatly influenced the definition of what good and responsible citizenship means. If you think that a good patriot is one who places his hand over his heart when reciting the pledge of allegiance, you had better look again.

The defining attributes of a faithful and loyal citizen of the United States is becoming less and less recognizable to those who look to God’s word and American history as a basis. While we may think that we are being faithful to teach our children good citizenship skills, I sense that the rest of our fellow countrymen, including a large number of those in the Church, are beginning to take a differing view.

Hopefully, you now see the critical role the Church plays. As I said earlier, the family is dependent upon the Church, being vulnerable to the power of the state when left unprotected by the Church. She is to be a leader in establishing the standards of rightful citizenship for our nation as she was in its founding. But for her to do so, she must have constituents who are active in their role as leaders. We must, as faithful kingdom citizens, advocate the right of our King to establish the standards of citizenship and loyally teach those to ourselves, our children, and to the nations. We are to model for the world and for our children the consistent application of God’s law across all spheres of our life. We are to jealously guard our King’s right to be the one and only legitimate source of law in all areas of our society. As God continues to call more and more of His people to see that there is indeed a line drawn in the sand and a moral stand to be taken, one can be encouraged that He is at work within His Church and drawing her back into faithful obedience to His word. May we all be an active citizen of His kingdom, faithfully devoted and loyal to His cause.

 

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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01