Christ or Caesar: The Issue Of Our Citizenship

Our nation just celebrated her 49th national day on 9th of August. As citizens we should be proud and grateful for what our nation has achieved thus far. However as Christians how should we view our earthly citizenship and what does it have to do with our Christian faith? Is there a connection between one’s earthly citizenship and citizenship in God’s kingdom? Dr. James Skillen, in his article, ‘Citizenship,’ shares some very helpful insights to the above questions. He suggests that citizenship should be viewed from a relationship to the Sovereign Creator of heaven and earth. “It is not just the church, the people of God, who are dependent on God; the entire creation depends on the Creator, and all human authority comes from God.” He goes on to elucidate on the remarks of Jesus in Mark 12:17, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Some interpret Jesus’ remark here as recommending a dichotomy between civic obligations and obligations to God as if Caesar and God are on an equal footing. Dr. Skillen argues to the contrary, “Or, put it in another way, Caesar deserves taxes from citizens, but both Caesar and the citizens together owe all of their political/governmental responsibilities to God. Caesar deserves taxes, but God deserves everything, including dutiful service we render to Caesar when we pay Caesar our taxes.”

A second important principle is to recognize that Christians hold a dual citizenship: an earthly one and a heavenly one. We who acknowledge God’s rule and accept citizenship in God’s kingdom must learn to do our civic duties as to the Lord. In a complex society like ours, one of the most important ways to live as a citizen in God’s kingdom is to pursue justice for all neighbours in our community. However, being a good citizen requires more than mere obedience to the Law. We must serve God with our whole heart. This may require that we give of ourselves, including our civic responsibility, to God in service. To do that, we must not just go along with the expectations and demands of our fellow citizens. We should seek justice by influencing government through elections and other lawful means and by seeking to revise unjust laws etc.

As citizens of heaven, we are reminded to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). In other words, ‘live as citizen.’

While we celebrate our National day with joy and pride, let us not fail to live up to our higher and greater calling as citizens of heaven.

Are you living in a manner worthy of your King and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ?

Rev. Mark Tay