The verse above is part of today’s reading (Acts 22:22-23:11) from the Daily Lectionary (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 1150).
The reading is an account of Paul’s final trip to Jerusalem and the difficulties he encountered there. Paul’s Roman citizenship once again helped him escape even harsher mistreatment than he already was encountering by both those who assaulted him in the temple and the Roman soldiers who came to his rescue.
If you know Paul’s story, you know that his Roman citizenship (from his father by birth) gave him rights and privileges that his fellow Jews did not enjoy. However, while it saved him from the worst treatment here, some historians believe that it did not ultimately save him from a martyr’s death in Rome later.
We are days away from the midterm elections in our country. It seems that wherever we turn there are candidates and issues vying for our attention and votes. Some of us have already voted either by absentee ballot or early voting. Others of us will head to the polls next Tuesday.
With election news and advertising inundating us at every turn, few of us can avoid considering what it means to be both faithful Christians and good citizens of the United States as we exercise our civic duties/privileges.
As I experience living as a Christian and a citizen of our country in this time, I believe Paul’s witness may be a great help to us. Here are two ways it can help us.
First, if you follow Paul’s life and story, it is full of complicated twists and turns. He went from being a staunch enemy of Jesus to being one of the greatest missionaries of early Christianity. Along the way Paul was called upon again and again to tell his story and witness to his faith in Jesus in situations where his life was on the line. The more Paul told his story the clearer Paul witnessed to how Jesus saved his life and gave him his new identity in Christ.
So, here’s a clue for you and me as we try to discern how we can be both faithful Christians and good citizens in this time. In the complex and confusing time in which we live, like Paul showed us, you and I need to keep telling our faith stories and why we live by the values we live.
Many of us know that it helps us immensely to be connected to a faith community and have friends who inspire us to live our faith openly in public! The more confident we become about how God guides our lives the more courage we will have to let our deepest values guide how we live as citizens!
Second, in June 2020, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued a social message called “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy.” If you were not previously aware of this document, you may find it helpful for yourself and in conversation with others in discerning how we live as Christians and good citizens of our democracy in this time. You will find this social message and a study guide by going to this link.
I hope you find these reflections to be helpful to you as you exercise your citizenship every day.
Our God who has formed all the places and peoples of the earth, be with us as we receive the good gifts you give us. Help us to share them in equitable ways that all people may benefit by them. Let your Spirit guide us toward peaceful ways. May we stand in solidarity with those who seek the basic human rights you intend for all of us. May we be guided by Jesus’ teachings and forgiveness. Amen.