Vote Your Christian Conscience

As Americans, we value the separation of Church and State. We are grateful that our fore-founders did not establish a government that had a state-church combination like England (knowing the problems it has historically caused for both state and church). Certainly our freedom of religion in this country is not intended to be freedom from religion.  Presidents swear in with their hand on the Bible, and congress, political conventions, city councils, etc. often begin with prayer. But even so, here in America we draw a proper distinction between the church and the state. This important distinction is actually much older than the 18th century as it goes at least as far back as the 4th century church father, St. Augustine with his two cities, and of special interest to us, also the 16th century reformer Dr. Martin Luther with his two kingdoms. For Luther, the right hand kingdom of God is the church. Clearly this is the “Kingdom of God” and the Kingdom of Grace in which God rules in, over, and among us through His Word and Sacraments. For Luther, the left hand kingdom of God is the state (or secular government). Very different from each other, the state operates largely in the realm of the Law whereas the church is formed and has its power in the Gospel.
But the important thing to point out in Luther’s understanding of the two kingdoms is that each one is a hand of God. This is consistent with what St. Paul taught in Romans 13, namely that the government is God’s servant. The left hand kingdom is still God’s hand, but a hand He uses not for the purpose of our eternal salvation but for the maintenance of human freedom, justice, and civil order within our society. Furthermore, in his explanation to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther counts as an important part of our “daily bread” for which we pray, good government. The reality is, what we need to support our body and life is not only dependent on the weather or the economy but on benevolent leadership which makes sure that the God-given resources of the earth are enjoyed equitably among all people. It is a tragic reality that life sustaining food, water, clothing, etc., sent by donors to developing countries, can get stalled at sea ports and warehouses without getting to the people if the government is corrupt. This was the sad scenario in Beirut, Lebanon when many Lutheran World Relief supplies were destroyed in the recent explosion.
So it is a good and God-pleasing work when Christians (who live in the right hand kingdom of God – the church), also recognize the fact that they also live in the left hand kingdom of God which is the state. This being the case, it is our sacred responsibility as citizens of a nation that has a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people” to be actively involved in that government. For some of us, this will mean serving in the military, or the post office, or holding office in government as a civil servant of one sort or another. For the rest of us (and for all of us), it means being an informed and responsible voter. Are you registered to vote in the election this coming November? If not, do you know how to get registered? Millions of Americans will vote by absentee ballot this fall. Do you know how to apply for one? These issues can all be addressed at a display table at St. Michael. In the past we have provided this service through Right to Life. This year, the table is courtesy of the NAACP (a non-partisan, non-profit organization encouraging voting). The table will be outside for the next couple Saturday Lamplight services and in the Communications Center for the next couple Sundays and will be staffed by our member, Sharon White (and others). They will be there to serve you and to help you be of service to others in this important way.

Pastor Naumann