Amos 8: 4-7
1 Timothy 2: 1-8
St. Luke 16: 1-17
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
In the past I have been asked multiple times, with regards to voting, “Who should I vote for?” Even by members of this congregation. Now whereas it is easy for me to answer that question, and even more easy as a pastor of a strong religiously conservative denomination, to do so behind the pulpit is much more difficult. Yet across the nation, many pastors have decided, myself included, to preach on what it means to be an American Citizen as a Christian. What are we obligated to do, and what does our faith says with regards to voting. So, in like manner, I too will provide a sermon on citizenship. But first, a legal caveat.
Supposedly, according to the law, I am not allowed to tell you behind the pulpit who to vote for and which party to vote for. I say supposedly because there is no such stipulation, but in recent past many pastors and congregations who lean particularly in one certain direction have been attacked by the IRS. So I will not, behind the pulpit at least, provide a sermon on who to vote for, but rather preach on the importance of voting as Christians and then imploring that you vote on good and legitimate Christian values, as oppose to those fake Christian values that are not supported anywhere in the Bible. I will do this by using Scripture, the Book of Concord, and official statements of the NALC.
Regarding Government, what does Scripture say? The two most important Scriptures we should read from regarding government are from Romans 13 and Acts 5. The first says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.” The latter, “We must obey God rather than men.” What does this mean? Quite simply that we are to obey God first and foremost and that as Christians we are to obey government in so far Government also obeys God. Basically, because government is a gift to us by God himself, we are to obey government because their authority stems from God. However, if we are forced to choose obedience to government or God then we must disobey government because the only reason why we obey government is because we first obey God.
The concept I just described can be best interpreted as such: we are first and foremost Christians and secondly Americans; our primary citizenship is to the Heavenly Kingdom of God and our American citizenship compared to such is but secondary. Many times through the Psalms this is expressed, as King David lauds God above all nations. Psalm 22: 27-28, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Psalm 47: 8,
“God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” And from today’s Psalm, Psalm 113: 4, “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!” Thus, in all that we do as Americans, to include vote, we do so first as a subject of God’s Kingdom.
Within our Book of Concord, particularly the Augsburg Confession Article 16: Of Civil Government, all this gets neatly tied together. It reads, “Concerning public order and secular government it is taught that all political authority, orderly government, laws, and good order in the world are created and instituted by God and that Christians may without sin exercise political authority; be princes and judges; pass sentences and administer justice according to imperial and other existing laws; punish evildoers with the sword; wage just wars; serve as soldiers; buy and sell; take required oaths; possess property; be married; etc. Condemned here are the Anabaptists who teach that none of the things indicated above are Christian. Also condemned are those who teach that Christian perfection means physically leaving house and home, spouse and child, and refraining from the above-mentioned activities. In fact, the only true perfection is true fear of God and true faith in God. For the Gospel teaches an internal, eternal reality and righteousness of the heart, not an external, temporal one. The Gospel does not overthrow secular government, public order, and marriage but instead intends that a person keep all this as a true order of God and demonstrate in these walks of life Christian love and true good works according to each person’s calling. Christians, therefore, are obliged to be subject to political authority and to obey its commands and laws in all that may be done without sin, but if a command of the political
authority cannot be followed without sin, one must obey God rather than any human being (Acts 5:29).”
Therefore it is perfectly alright for Christians, who are first and foremost Christians, to serve in government and to vote. By doing so the relationship between Church and Government, and in effect their obligations with regards to each other, are fulfilled. For as Lutherans, we identify three holy estates ordained by God: Family, Government, and Church. The family’s sole duty with regards to the other two is to be the foundation of which good citizens and Christians are raised. The sole duty of government with regards to other two is to be the physical protectors. This means government exists to use the power of the sword to protect and preserve the Church of God. And as for the church, its sole duty with regards to the other two is to keep them holy. By preaching the Good News and letting Christian values influence government then we are fulfilling our Christian duty of maintaining government as one of the holy estates.
That’s the key, and the reason why we vote and get involved in politics: to make sure politics is always downstream of religion. We all know that due to original sin, without the help of God we are all helpless at performing even one singular good though or deed. We are all born completely corrupt and enslaved to Satan’s domain of sinfulness. Every pore of our very being is infected with this invasive disease known as original sin. We cannot save ourselves, and if we hope to do anything remotely good then we need the help of God which is indeed already provided for through our Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross to forgive us our sins and lead us toward a life of holiness. Now if government is
made up of men and laws are created by men, then would that not also imply that our completely corruption under sin would influence government? Correct! For because of original sin even government is completely corrupted and subject to Satan. This is why we preach multiple times about how the world hates Christ; for this is because, without the help of God and the salvation found in Christ, government is helplessly a victim of the Devil’s demonic schemes. Therefore, as the Church, for the sake of government, should we not ought to do everything in our power to allow God to influence our nation more so than the Devil? For if we don’t then we as a nation will ultimate start exalting and protecting man-made abominations, and in fact we already are.
This is why we pray for our leaders and ask God to bless our nation. We pray not because we agree with the agenda of our leaders, but that God’s agenda is ultimately accomplished. We ask God to bless this nation because without His help we will degrade into wickedness. This is also why we as a whole vote, participate in government, serve as judges, etc. with our Christian faith always on our sleeves. Our faith always comes first.
In addition, this is also why within the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, the defining document of what it means to be an Orthodox Lutheran, the following are listed as heresies. Again, the follow statements are heretical and we do not abide by them: That governmental service is not a God-pleasing walk of life in the New Testament; That a Christian cannot hold an office in government with a good, clear conscience; That Christians may not with a clear conscience exercise their governmental office against the wicked in appropriate situations, nor may Christian
subjects of the government appeal to its power; that Christians may not with good conscience swear an oath in court or pay feudal homage to their prince or lord with an oath; That governmental authority may not with a clear conscience impose capital punishment upon criminals; That a Christian may not with a good conscience own or possess private property, but rather is bound to surrender all to the community (Socialism is officially labeled a heresy in Lutheranism).
Now some may falsely claim what about Separation of Church and State? To that I say no such thing exists in America, and if it did then we are compelled as Lutherans to disobey such nonsense. If there is a separation it is a separation of duties and not of relationship. The Church and the State have two separate
list of obligations given by God, the two do not act as the other, but the two do relate to each other. The State protects the Church, and the Church influences the State.
What does this influencing the state looks like? First and foremost, the ultimate influencer is God. Therefore, of all things the most important thing we can ever vote upon is letting God be more present everywhere, aka lifting up radically so Religious Freedom. There is a reason why it is the first freedom in the Bill of Rights; because our first speaker of the house, a Lutheran pastor, Rev. Frederick Muhlenberg, understood this to be the most important freedom in America. For all our founding fathers understood that without God, this great experiment called America will fail. Thus we vote in favor of radically capitalizing on our freedom to follow the Great Commission in every corner of our life. We are to preach, teach, and baptize in the name of the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to all nations. And if this is our chief goal – to defend religious freedom and our right to preach the Good News everywhere without fear of governmental punishment – then we need to be honest with ourselves. Who is more likely to punish Christians? Be honest when you vote, ask, between all the candidates who has the highest likelihood to rigorously defend your right to preach about your orthodox faith in all walks of your life? Also ask, who has the higher likelihood of punishing, or supporting punishment from other sources, Christians who outwardly act upon their faith? I don’t care about a candidate’s conduct, only their policies. Ask yourself, if given the authority who would use everything in their power, using the force of government, to shut down this church and throw me in jail vs protect and preserve this church? Be honest with yourself! As for me, the answer is obvious.
As for our other Christian values, do not be swayed by the political manipulations of the Christophobic crowd. If a Christian value was never politicized in the past but is now that is due to political manipulators who wish to terrify churches into silence, so that good non-political Christian messages are never spoken out of fear of opposing a particular recent political stance that only one party stands up, in an extremist manner, for. If we the church was to allow the world to silence us out of fear of being falsely labeled of being political then we will inevitably act in the same manner as those Christians in Nazi Germany who never dared spoke up against the atrocities of the then current administration out of fear of politicizing the Church.
Now the Christian values that the NALC stands up for that are not political, and of which all good Christians vote for, includes: protecting the innocent lives of all human beings from conception to grave; fighting against the LBGT and their entire demonic agenda; and lifting up religious freedom. And if you don’t believe me that these are official stances of the NALC, I have documents in the Narthex prepared to prove my case.
In the end, what are we to do as Christians? First, we must deny our sinful tendencies to follow worldly desires and instead deny ourselves in humble service towards God. Next, we should learn to fear God more than fearing Man, for true wisdom is not found in mankind but in the fear of the Lord alone. And last, now that we have submitted ourselves to God and not to demonic political stances, we vote and promote policies in line with our faith while we also pray for the Lord’s blessing to guide us. I hope that satisfies some of the questions many have had regarding how we who are first Citizens of God’s Kingdom function as also citizens of America.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the King of Kings and all authority and nations bow down to you. No one is higher than you and deserves more respect than you. Help us to serve you with our whole heart, mind, soul, and body so that we can better serve our neighbors. Help us remember that though we are citizens of America, we are even more so citizens of your heavenly kingdom. In your holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.