Beckett: The Table of Duties – My Civic Duty

“In the civic community, we live as citizens with responsibility to the government” (SC, p. 349).

Romans 13:1-7 lays out the necessity of the government to punish evildoers and reward its law-abiding citizens. To be sure, no government is ever perfect, but Scriptures makes it clear that God places it among us as “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). As citizens in our respective states, countries, and nations, we have every responsibility to live as citizens in these places, even in the government itself if we so desire to acquire such a vocation. For all its imperfections, imagine a world without government. Luther illustrates it for us quite well:

If there were no worldly government, one man could not stand before another; each would necessarily devour the other, as irrational beasts devour one another. Therefore as it is the function and honor of the office of preaching to make sinners saints, dead men live, damned men saved, and the devil’s children God’s children, so it is the function and honor of worldly government to make men out of wild beasts and to prevent men from becoming wild beasts.

LW 46:237

One of my favourite books is Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The novel demonstrates what it would look like if there were no civil order. Anarchy, power struggles, dehumanisation, betrayal, and murder abound. With no law to curb and restrain original sin, men turn into beasts. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to live as good citizens within our respective communities, and how this looks will depend on one’s vocation. How a Christian serving as a senator lives responsibly in his community looks different than how I live as a simple voter who has no official role in government. For example, a Christian senator has means to push forward legislation to make abortion illegal, whereas the average citizen can put up signs and hand out flyers to educate others about just how violent it is against the baby and the mother, as well as voting against evil propositions that seek to continue infanticide.

But I digress. How one lives responsibly in the community doesn’t always look political. There are places to volunteer, charities to donate to, parks to pick up litter, neighbours to feed and give shelter, and so on. There are many places to look and find people in our communities to serve and love, if only we keep our noses out of our smartphones for more than five seconds. And when government goes beyond the authority given to it by God and seeks to bind Christian consciences and becomes tyrannical, we say with the Apostles, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).


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