By the time you read this the result of the EU referendum will have been revealed. I am neither a prophet or pollster so I’m not going to try and anticipate the outcome here. Whatever that may be, one of the defining issues of the referendum campaign was our sense of political identity. Are we first of all Europeans and then British, British and then European, or simply British? The answer to those questions is partly based on a sense of cultural belonging and partly on political matters such as sovereignty and citizenship.
There is no ‘Christian view’ on whether we are better off in or out of the EU, but the Bible has something to say about citizenship and the role of the state. A decent government will defend its citizens, uphold the rule of law and harness the power of society to serve the common good. But there’s only so much the state can do, both at the national level and as states work together in organisations like the EU.
The Christian attitude towards politics is summed up well in the words of Jesus, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ We are to give ‘Caesar’ or the state its due by obeying the laws of the land, paying our taxes, and acting as good citizens. But the state has no power to change the human heart, or command our worship. That is God’s domain.
Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. Its power is not of this world and cannot be measured in terms of military might, GDP, or global influence. King Jesus did not come to destroy his enemies, but to die for them. He did not seek to enrich himself, but by his poverty to bestow the riches of God’s grace upon others. Belonging to this kingdom is not a matter of race, or national citizenship. All who believe belong.
None of this means that Christians have little interest in politics, or that we wish to withdraw from society. Jesus calls his people to play a full part in the life of this world and to seek the wellbeing of their local communities. But for the Christian, our ultimate citizenship isn’t measured by the words on our passports, but our hope in the Lord, ‘our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 3:20). That thought helps to put the raging political controversies of the day into perspective.
* For July's White Horse News, Trinity Magazine & News & Views.