Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God….For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
In his book The Call, Os Guinness identifies calling as,
The truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.
Guinness then differentiates between our primary and our secondary callings:
Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him . . . . Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him.
Our primary calling should lead without fail to a number of secondary callings. We discern the difference between our primary calling “to be” and our secondary callings “to do” when we fully integrate God’s call into all areas of life. For followers of Christ, these secondary callings should lead us to find our unique life purpose, in order to use our particular gifts and abilities to their utmost for God’s glory.
Our obedience to our primary calling to Christ can be seen working itself out in these four secondary callings, which are:
- The call to family.
- The call to church.
- The call to vocation.
- The call to community.
One of the secondary calling mentioned above is our call to community, described by the Puritan author William Perkins as “a certain kind of life ordained and imposed on man by God for the common good.”
The gospel commands us to serve God’s purposes in the world through civic, social, political, domestic, and ecclesiastical roles. We are to love God and to love our neighbor in the larger community beyond the church by engaging in justice and mercy as God leads us.
One way we answer the call to serve our communities is by voting. When we cast our vote, we contribute to the people and policies that will shape our communities and their ability to flourish or wither.
Richard Doster, editor of byFaith magazine, recently wrote an article appearing in byFaith that makes the case for Christian political involvement based on the call to community. In it he writes,
Christians, when rightly informed and motivated, change the character of political debate. They bring the moral standards of God’s kingdom into the civic realm…
By voting, we bring the moral standards of God’s kingdom into the ballot box.
You can read the full article here, but I want to share its key points, which explain the impact Christians can have on their communities through politics:
1. Christians keep government accountable.
As Doster writes, “Romans 13:4 tells us that government authority exists for our good.” Government exists for our good, but Christians are the ones with a unique perspective on what “good” is and how it can be achieved. God has used Christians throughout history to cast a vision of shalom for rulers to seek after. Daniel in Babylon and Joseph in Egypt are two examples that jump into my mind.
2. Christians bring transcendent values.
Our society has lost all sense of objective truth. Christians can step into this void and give witness to objective truths established by God. Doster argues,
Christians, then, must enter the civic realm because only the Church conveys moral values…Society’s well-being, then, depends on a robust religious influence.
Christians testify to the true moral meaning behind concepts such as law, justice, peace, civility, and other values that contribute to the well-being of society.
3. Christians provide a restraining influence.
Believers serve as moral restraints when government and society overstep their bounds. When governments act unjustly or unwisely, we Christians can hold them accountable. Quoting Robert Dabney, a Southern Presbyterian pastor, Doster says,
Christians needed to be involved, Dabney believed, not to force their morals onto society as a whole, but to advocate for justice, show respect for life, and support the powerless.
When society loses its compass for justice and compassion, Christians act to steer it aright. Referencing Augustine, Doster reminds us that,
When morality and civic virtue break down, “divine authority intervenes to impose frugal living, continence, friendship, justice, and concord among citizens.”
Whether serving in government or voting as regular citizens, Christians serve as their culture’s moral compass that points to a better way of living and relating.
4. The Bible instructs us to get involved.
Doster offers Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 as instruction guides for how to speak truth to power. These texts also give us insight into how God views the roles and responsibilities of government.
Christians are called to community. Answering this call means we actively care about justice, righteousness, peace, and prosperity (material and spiritual). This involves holding rulers accountable. It involves casting a vision of shalom and actively pursuing it. Casting your vote is one simple way to answer such a call.
Your community depends on it.
What do you think? How else can Christians answer the call to serve their communities? Leave your comments here.