For Christians, Discipleship Requires Stewardship of Our Citizenship

Citizenship is a resource.

Stewardship is making responsible use of your resources.

Discipleship is attempting to follow Christ in the way you make responsible use of your resources.

I’m so happy to see so many of my friends being interested in the healthcare policy debate. So many of you are having constructive, respectful conversations, working together to develop the way we think about these important issues.

Some of you are even asking how Christians should analyze these policy issues. That’s great! What’s the ethical position on healthcare policy, from a Christian perspective? Making good use of that old cliché, some of you have asked “WWJD?”

Here’s what I’d like to talk about today:  Some of you, including dear, dear friends of mine, believe that the Christian position ought to be no position. You have expressed the opinion that Christians aren’t supposed to be engaged and involved in the detailed policy-making activities of government. Just today, one of you remarked that Jesus wasn’t really interested in government, except to say that we should pay our taxes and obey the law. While it’s true that Jesus spoke only a little bit about “governing,” I think you might be missing two points that some of us (who are ALSO Christians) think are important. Would you please give the following two ideas some thought?

Every one of us occupies numerous roles in life. We wear many “hats,” so they say. For example, I am a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a lawyer, a former church worker, a professor, a friend, a neighbor, and so on. You wear many hats, too. My fellow Christians who happen to live as citizens in this great country occupy 2 roles that we should think about: We are both citizens and Christ-followers (aka disciples). While it’s possible to live as if those 2 roles have no overlap, that doesn’t make much sense for many of us. It’s not complicated to explain why.

As a citizen, each of us has important, powerful resources: our voices and our votes. Those resources can be used by each of us to try and bring about the kind of society we think would be the best kind of society. In fact, many citizens believe that we have an OBLIGATION, merely as responsible stewards of those resources, to advocate with our voices and to cast our votes in favor of the politicians and policies that we think will help bring about a good society.

But what kind of society do you, fellow citizen, think would be a good society? What is your vision of such a society? And where do you get that vision? You could, for example, cast your votes to help bring about a society that favors your race to the disadvantage of other races, or you could cast your vote to favor men over women, or to consolidate power among the rich to the disadvantage of the poor. You could vote for a selfish society, or a hateful society. As a citizen with the resources of your voice and your vote, you can use your resources to support whatever vision of society you want. When you play your role as citizen, you get to decide.

As a Christ-follower, however, you want society to look like Christ envisioned. (Hint: More than anything else, he talked about a world that could be called the kingdom of God.). When you, fellow Christian, imagine a good society, surely you imagine a society in which poverty is eliminated, where racism exists no more, in which children have opportunity to reach their potential, where God’s wondrous and beautiful creation is cared for. Instead of a selfish society or hateful society or an uncaring society, you yearn for a society that takes care of the least and the lowest. Even if everyone in society doesn’t think like you do or believe like you do, you would still love it if the sick were healed, if the poor found opportunity and support, and if the old divisions among diverse communities were reconciled.

Here’s the first point I’m asking you to consider. Wouldn’t it be great news for Christians if we lived in a society where the “least of these” (whom Christ loved) would actually receive all the care that Christ and his followers desire for them? Indeed there is good news, because you have resources! As a citizen, you can deploy those resources to work toward the kind of society that you think would be a good one. For example, you might think that a good society would be one in which the sick receive access to healthcare. If that’s what you think, for you it’s just plain “good stewardship” for you to use your resources in support of that vision.

Here’s the second point I’m asking you consider: Some of you, fellow Christians, disagree about that vision. You’ve made that clear when you explained that you believe Christ wouldn’t want to get involved with such policy issues. While I disagree with you, I still love you and I still regard you as my brother or sister. But you haven’t acted like you feel that way about me, nor about people who think as I do. By your harsh words, quite often you’ve been expressing your opinion that we’re not just wrong, but un-Christian (or even ANTI-Christian) just because we happen to believe that Christ wants us to be good stewards of our resources as citizens. I’m asking you to reconsider how you’re thinking and how your talking (including how you talk about us). Please be more thoughtful and kinder with your rhetoric.

And I’m asking you to think, again, about what it means to be a good steward when you are blessed to be both a citizen AND a disciple. I’m available to talk about it with you, anytime.

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