July 11, 2017 | 2 Comments Note: I want to begin this post by apologizing for the length of time it took to write it. I have worked on-and-off on this post for the past 9 months! There are many factors that caused this, ranging from simple procrastination to some difficult spiritual battles I have faced. I ask that you pray for me as I continue to develop my walk with God and spread the good news of His salvation. Should Christians vote? This question has weighed on my mind ever since the beginning of what will go down as one of the most controversial American elections in world history. I chose not to vote, but was not sure I had made the right decision. After doing the research for this post, I realized that this dilemma extends far beyond the question “to vote, or not to vote”. I attribute the inspiration of this article to Juan Sandoval from Santa Ana, El Salvador. He has been a good friend over the years, and actually helped name this blog. A while back, he suggested that I do a topic on the separation of church and state, and this is what my mind went to. Thanks, Juan, and I hope this is at least close to what you were looking for. The Kingdom of Heaven In order to understand the rest of this post, you first need to have a firm grasp of the Kingdom of Heaven (also called the Kingdom of God). It is important to note that while the concept I am describing here is the foundation for the popular “two-kingdom concept”, it is not the same thing. One of Jesus’ main messages at the beginning of his ministry was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) We are very familiar with these words, but what exactly is the kingdom of heaven? What Kind of Kingdom is it? The Greek word that Jesus used for “kingdom” in Matthew 4 is a form of the word basileius, meaning literally “the dominion of a king”. This “kingdom” is not referring to a physical kingdom, but rather a group of people ruled by a king. In this case that king is God. For a more detailed explanation, check out Ben Dunson’s series on the kingdom of God. Who is Part of the Kingdom? Anyone who subjects themselves fully to God’s rule in their life is a member of the Kingdom of God. In John 3:3, Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Literally translated, Jesus is saying that to see the kingdom of God you need to start your life over as a Christian, in essence being “reborn” as a new person. This implies total repentance and surrender to God. What is the Kingdom of Heaven Like? Jesus talked about many characteristics of the kingdom of heaven. Here are just a few: It is hard to enter: in Mark 10:24, Jesus said “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” Jesus had just finished his discourse with the rich young ruler, and was showing his disciples that the kingdom of heaven requires total commitment. It is worth giving up everything for: Jesus also said “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46) It may seem insignificant, but it is really important: Jesus explained this concept in Matthew 13. “…The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree…” (Matthew 13:31-32 There are impostors: Jesus warned his disciples of hypocrisy within the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 13:24-30, he told the parable of the tares in the wheat field, where he explained that Satan will also plant his own people in the kingdom of heaven. Paul also warns of false teachers within the Kingdom: “…fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30) The Ambassador Complex One of the main characteristics of being a citizen of a country is that it means you are not a citizen of any other country (with a few exceptions). Jesus said:“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24a) If we are truly living as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, we cannot be a citizen of “this world” (speaking in a spiritual sense). This makes us foreigners in the kingdom of the world. However, God calls us to be so much more than foreigners with a lifetime green card – He calls us to be ambassadors. The Definition of an Ambassador By definition, an ambassador is “an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country”. An ambassador is not a visitor. He is not a tourist. He is not a person who was chosen at random and casually shipped overseas. An ambassador is someone who has been intentionally chosen to represent the country they are from. The Biblical Foundation The concept of being an ambassador for Christ is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. Peter, Paul, and even Jesus teach us that we are not citizens of this world. Consider these verses: John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” 2 Corinthians 5:20a“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ…” Philippians 3:20a “But our citizenship is in heaven…” 1 Peter 2:11a “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…” The Role of an Ambassador So what does it mean to be an ambassador? We know what an ambassador is, and that we are taught to be ambassadors. How does this look in everyday life? Ambassadors follow local laws – In Romans 13, Paul teaches us that to disobeying the government is to disobey God. Ambassadors interact with others – The main purpose of being an ambassador is to build and maintain relationships with people in the country they are visiting. Ambassadors show interest in local culture – An ambassador is not necessarily expected to engage in every cultural practice of the country they are visiting, but they can be seen as cold and uncaring if they do not show any interest in the lives of those they are reaching out to. Jesus does not call us to live in our own bubble separate from the world. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Paul gives some very solid advice about interacting with people of the world. Ambassadors stay informed with current events – Keeping up to date with current events is a key part of an ambassador’s job. If they do not stay in touch with what is going on in the country they are visiting, they can quickly lose out on important details that are essential to maintaining relationships with people of that country. Ambassadors pay taxes – While ambassadors are often exempt from local income taxes, they are usually still required to pay other taxes, such as sales tax. Jesus taught us in Matthew 22:15-22 that even though our allegiance is to God, we are still expected to pay taxes to the local government. Ambassadors represent their own kingdom – Ambassadors are representatives of their home country, and are expected to portray the best possible image of their country. They also show pride in their home country and are not ashamed to be different from those around them. In Romans 1:16a, Paul teaches us to do the same: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel…” Things an Ambassador Does Not Do While the role of an ambassador is to represent their home country, there are some things that ambassadors do not do. Ambassadors do not vote – An ambassador cannot vote in the country they are staying in. They are, however, allowed to take part in elections in their home country. They are also allowed to voice their opinion in matters of state in the country they live in, but are expected to do so in a way that maintains a respectful image of their home country. Ambassadors do not serve in government positions – An ambassador is not allowed to serve in government positions in the country they are visiting. Ambassadors do not serve in the military – An ambassador is not allowed to serve in the military of the country they are visiting. In most situations, doing so is actually an act of treason to their home country. How Can I Be an Effective Ambassador? Sometimes the role of being an ambassador can seem like a really big challenge. It is important that we as Christians can effectively portray a positive and accurate image of Christianity. One of the best things you can do is study God’s word and apply it to your life. I could go into more detail about preparing yourself for the role of ambassador, but there is someone else who has created an excellent resource for people wanting to improve their skills in this area. If you are interested, check out https://www.str.org/about/ambassadors-creed. This is an excellent resource for any Christian. Update 7/26/17: I want to clarify that my intent for this article (and any others I write) is not to give you a definitive standard for Christian living. My hope and prayer is that this article will inspire you to search your own life and see how it applies to you. While I believe that my personal application of these ideas is the most Biblical, I am not trying to condemn anyone who does not see this issue the same way. I am simply trying to encourage others to think about this and look to God for direction in their own life. References: Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.