Martin was the son of a Lutheran pastor and a submarine commander in World War I. By the time World War II came, Martin had become a pastor like his father. Martin spoke positively of his country—“When this great nation was formed, God gave it Christianity for its soul, and from these Christian roots it has grown.” Martin joined the army with his two sons.
Martin’s allegiance should have to be Christ’s kingdom, not to the earthly nation where he lived. Martin Niemoller was a German citizen. He volunteered to serve in the Nazi army in submission to his earthly nation.
I am often told that the apostle Paul “used his Roman citizenship” and that this means that I have a duty to vote in the “democracy” which is the American empire. Back during the situation of Romans 13, I am told, we Christians were not citizens of Rome, but now things have changed and we Christians are now ourselves the magistrate, and so now we only submit to ourselves. And then I am told that submission to the powers, in this new situation, means becoming part of the powers, so it’s my duty to vote or even to kill for the American empire.
What is being left out of this story is the fact that the Roman empire was an occupation force within Israel. Did only Roman citizens have a duty to support or kill for Rome? Or did non-Roman citizens also have a duty to obey the Roman empire?
When we are reminded that “Paul used his citizenship”, should we conclude that only Paul needed to submit to Roman occupation? More importantly, is it true that those with an extra ‘citizenship” are in a better position to live as Christians in the world?
pastor Martin Luther–“When Christians went to war, they struck right and left and killed, and there was no difference between Christians and the heathen. But they did nothing contrary to Matthew 5;38-39 because they did it not as Christians. but as obedient subjects, under obligation to a secular authority.”
I Corinthians 7—I don’t need to be out of jail, but also I don’t need to be in jail, therefore there is nothing I could gain if Roman citizens had the vote about occupying Israel.
Paul used his Roman citizenship twice:
Acts 16:37 The first time was after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. He used it to no apparent benefit to himself. He announced his citizenship after his beating and humiliation. The effect was to put the public authorities on the spot. Paul got a severe beating-and then an apology. He didn’t get, or try to get, an audience with the powers. They wanted him to leave town, and he did.
Acts 22:25-27.The second time Paul used his Roman citizenship was after the Jews had tried to kill him, but BEFORE he was flogged. The consequences of this dragged on for the rest of Paul’s life. It did not keep Paul from being killed. Most likely Paul was never ‘free’ again, spending the rest of his time in the Roman legal system/under arrest..
Paul did not use his Roman citizenship as a means to spread the gospel, because there was nothing about his being Roman that could add to the gospel or create an “apologetic” for the gospel. For Paul the crucial issue was being in Christ, not the various options on how one can be in the world. Being Roman didn’t make being in Christ more significant or effective. Being Roman didn’t create opportunities for the gospel. God’s effectual calling does not depend on what liberal political theory likes to call “religious liberty”.
Acts 21—You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 But they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, by telling them not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs. 22 So what is to be done? They will certainly hear that you’ve come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have obligated themselves with a vow. 24 Take these men, purify yourself along with them, and pay for them to get their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that what they were told about you amounts to nothing, but that you yourself are also careful about observing the law. 25 With regard to the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter containing our decision that they should keep themselves from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
26 Then the next day, Paul took the men, having purified himself along with them, and entered the temple, announcing the completion of the purification days when the offering for each of them would be made. 27 As the seven days were about to end, the Jews from Asia saw him in the temple complex, stirred up the whole crowd, and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place. What’s more, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has profaned this holy place.”
Acts 26: 29 “I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains.” 30 So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, 31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, “This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.” 32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Paul could have simply gone to Rome. God had been able to direct Paul before without having to resort to such convoluted arrangements. Paul had enough popular appeal that people, influential people, wanted to see and hear him. But Paul didn’t go to Rome: he went to Jerusalem. The prophetic word his brothers and sisters received before he went there led them to strongly urge him not to go. He rejected their counsel. Their wisdom was driven by their concern for Paul and was under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Even if one has a “word from God”, that word does not have self evident meaning— it must be evaluated.
The chief men of the church in Jerusalem were concerned about appearances, so they had Paul do something which was unnecessary in an attempt to improve his standing with the Jews. They had him take four men through the rite of purification with him, a practice the Jews might appreciate but which had no value for the maturing of the church in Jerusalem. In fact, it seems more like accommodation to the religious culture than anything. This is the event that caused the problem; not Paul or the men being there, but the assumption by some Jews that Paul had gentiles in the temple. This might be a good example of what results when we are concerned with appearances. Paul accepts the counsel of those in Jerusalem he is not particularly close to, of whose high standing he professes to have no particular regard, and who are motivated by their concern for appearances.
Martin Luther —I will not oppose a ruler who, EVEN THOUGH HE DOES NOT TOLERATE THE GOSPEL, will smite and punish these peasants without offering to submit the case to judgement. For he is within his rights, since the peasants are not contending any longer for the Gospel but have become faithless, perjured, disobedient, rebellious murderers, robbers, and blasphemers, whom even heathen rulers have the right and power to punish….
Luther—If the ruler can punish and does not, then he is guilty of all the murder and all the evil which these fellows commit, because, by willful neglect of the divine command, the ruler permits them to practice their wickedness, though he can prevent it, and is in duty bound to do so. Here, then, there is no place for patience or mercy. It is the time of the sword, not the day of grace. Therefore will I punish and smite as long as my heart bears. Thou wilt judge and make things right.’ Thus it may be that one who is killed fighting on the ruler’s side may be a true martyr in the eyes of God…On the other hand, one who perishes on the peasants’ side is an eternal brand of hell…
The Magisterial Reformers insisted that the problem was with “anabaptists” sneering at the benefits the “natural order” which has been preserved for us by those whose vocation for God is to kill. The problem is not German or Genevan lesser magistrates at war against emperor and pope or peasants. Though the earth in the age to come will be the Lord’s, to be practical in this present age the earth must be kept from the parasites and preserved for the invisible hand of providence. And this means we can vote (and be glad that other people don’t vote, democracy does not depend on majority consent). Only idealists cannot compromise between two evils, and we can accuse such people as those who immanentize the eschaton…
So when we fear the Muslim Turks, we do not need to tempt God by only relying on the second coming of Christ, because we have our American citizenship. And we can either make alliances with them or bomb them. And in the same manner as Paul was saved from death by the hands of the Romans (because he was a hybrid, both Roman and Christian) , we too will not tempt God by trusting God to save us, even though two swords may not be enough,
Hitler (after the failure of the assassination plot)—“it was providence that spared me. This proves that I am on the right track. I feel that this is the confirmation of all my work.” But all things happen because God predestined them to happen not because God approves these things. God works all things for the good of the elect does not mean that all things are good. Job’s friends— all suffering is evidence that God does not like you?But Psalm 7318 speaks of the prosperity of the non-elect. “Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.”
George Eliot describing a preacher loyal to the status quo or tradition “Let him be ardent and imaginative on the coming advent of Christ, but cold and cautious toward every other infringement of the status quo. Let him be hard and literal in his interpretation only when he wants to hurl texts at the heads of adversaries, but when the letter of the Scriptures presses too closely on hi genteel Christianity, let him use his spiritualizing alembic and disperse the letter of the Scripture into impalpable ether. ” http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/42612/