This weekend we reflected on the blessings of being a citizen of the United States. Truly it is a great privilege to be a citizen here in the United States. We enjoy many freedoms that people in other countries only dream about. We have a democratic process in place where U.S. citizens can participate in multiple different ways. We remember on Independence Day the sacrifice that many have made to secure our freedoms today.

But what happens when the government is no longer working for the people? What happens when Christians and Christianity are not protected under the freedom of religion? What happens when the government infringes on Christian conscience or God’s Word?

Whether you identify with this or not, Christians living in the world today can be caught between the worlds standards and God’s. We live as citizens of two kingdoms; the kingdom of the left, where governments are put in place to create order as they rule by laws and people are motivated by fear of punishment; and the kingdom of the right, where the church has been established by God to rule over matters of the spiritual nature. The kingdom of the right is ruled by Grace and the people are motivated by love because the punishment was taken by Jesus on the cross. Christians are citizens of both church and state, and it is our duty to be good citizens of both.

As Christians we champion the separation of church and state because we would rather not have the government coming in and telling us what to believe, teach and confess. We do not want the government forcing us to violate our conscience before the Word of God. As Christians we should also not want the church to run the state. For one, a government-run by the church is not biblical. Second, the church run by grace would not be a good model in the left hand kingdom because Christians and non-Christians alike reside there. Grace would be abused (as it has been in the right) and evil would go unpunished, it would leave the world in chaos.

God is certainly sovereign over both kingdoms and is actively involved in both. God does not want to leave his creation in utter chaos. So He has given the left kingdom its power and authority. Along with that comes the sword to punish the evil. God has also given right hand kingdom, the church, the power to forgive and retain sins. God is present in both kingdoms, cares about both kingdoms and uses both kingdoms; which means we should care about both kingdoms.

So how does a Christian living in two kingdoms live their lives? How do we recognize the tension that exists while still being faithful to both kingdoms?

1. Christians need to live their lives as people guided by God’s Word. In the U.S. that means participating in the democratic process. For some it may mean running for office, for others it may mean supporting a candidate who will represent you well and for others it may mean speaking out in public forums. You are guided by your identity as God’s child. Christians guided by the Word, can and should speak out to the issues that the Bible speaks directly to. The church must oppose government policies that encourage people to go against their religious conscience.

2. Christians need to be aware of what it means to be faithful to both kingdoms, but understanding we only have one King. Being faithful to the left hand kingdom means being involved with the process, paying taxes, paying respect, following the laws of the land, etc. In the right hand kingdom it means: going to church, praying and learning, confession, etc. Learning that both kingdoms have their place and purpose and growing to respect that.

3. The best way to express yourself in this system is often personal and individual. Contact your local representatives face to face or contact them by email or mail. Be well-informed about the topic, thoughtful in your views and courteous in your manner. You will never get anywhere by being rude or argumentative.

4. We are a people who live in two kingdoms, but it is important to know we only have one King. We place nothing before God because the government can easily become our god.

What are your thoughts? How have you learned to live in the tension of the two kingdoms?

For those of you who live in the U.S., have a blessed Independence Day, as we celebrate our freedoms and realize that freedom is never free.

Just as a point of honesty, I borrowed the image above from a blog that deals with this subject. If you want to check it out here is the link: twokingdomstheology.blogspot.com

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