Why kingdom citizenship trumps national allegience
By Larry Nikkel
The Board of Faith and Life (BFL) has spent much of the last four years working on the content of Article 13 of our Confession of Faith (Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation). We’ve also reviewed Article 12 (Society and the State), but because we did not recommend any changes, it has not generated much discussion. While one cannot prioritize each article within the Confession, it is clear that Article 12 stands as one of the foundational statements of our Confession.
As we traveled throughout our constituency processing issues related to Article 13, we also tested the strength of our commitment to Article 12. The simple way of addressing the issue was asking the question, “Do we agree that our kingdom citizenship takes priority over our national citizenship?” Without exception it received unequivocal verbal support. While we found that to be reassuring, it is clear that we need to engage with each other to form a more complete understanding of how we apply the values of kingdom principles to living in our great country.
I have never considered myself as one with a prophetic gift. But it seems obvious to me that for many Christians there is an increasing blurring of the line between our identities as kingdom citizens and our identities as national citizens. The degree to which this is accurate is the degree to which we find ourselves in a precarious situation. How was it that Christians in pre-World War 2 Germany raised their arms along with everyone else and chanted “Heil Hitler” and “Deutschland uber alles “(Germany above everything else)?” As we know, their blind “followership” resulted in one of the great tragedies in the history of humankind.
What would it take for us to also find ourselves on the wrong side of the kingdom, even if the circumstances pale in comparison to the Holocaust? We must be willing to ask ourselves two key questions. First, as we view the actions of our government through the lens of our kingdom glasses, has our government always been right? Regardless of how one answers this question, the question that follows is more important: “Is it right this time?”
How we answer that question may be less important than that we ask the question. Once we quit asking the question we are precariously close to the kind of blind “followership” that has been disastrous in the past. Incidents such as the horrific events of 9/11 tend to generate an explosion of nationalistic fervor that is understandable. But such incidents must not be allowed to cloud our vision for being true to our highest allegiance to kingdom values.
Some may see this admonition as disloyal and unappreciative of our United States government. I suggest that it is just the opposite. What parent is not constantly observing how best to monitor the actions and values of their children with a willingness to confront actions or attitudes that can lead them down the wrong path. It is not only our right as Christians to monitor the actions of our government it is also our responsibility.
And it is an even greater responsibility for us to be willing to live out our allegiance to God when our kingdom values are in conflict with the values and actions of our secular authorities. It would seem imperative that we in the Christian community be willing to talk with and seek guidance from Scripture and from each other on how best to apply kingdom values in all cases where those values can lead to health and wholeness. It is equally vital that we not neglect praying for those who have the awesome responsiblity of making decisions about longstanding problems for which there are no easy answers.
Larry Nikkel is chair of the USMB Board of Faith and Life.