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Being Good Citizens for Christ

Living with Grace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  55:12
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Titus 3:1–3 NKJV
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

Followers of Christ should be the most gracious people in the world.

Though we know this to be true, we need to be reminded because we easily forget to be nice. We forget because it feels as though the deck is set against us. And while it’s frustrating to be unappreciated, unheard, marginalized, and persecuted, we should not allow such experiences to agitate or alarm us. We should be gracious under pressure.
Paul gives us seven ways that we should exhibit the grace of God in a messed-up world.

We should submit to our government officials.

This means to “get in line” behind those who are ahead of us in government. We should not seek to overthrow or rebel against those who are governing us. We should accept and respect their position. “Rulers and authorities” refers to a wide range of leaders, no matter how they got into power or what level or scope of power they hold. Regardless of their party, platform, or policies, we should submit to them when they are in office.

We should obey our government officials.

This means our submissive attitude should translate into actual compliance. We should follow the laws they pass and comply with the policies they implement.
We may not like their laws and policies as these may be inconvenient, inefficient, and uncomfortable. What’s more, most government officials tend to live immoral lives and represent ungodly values. Nevertheless, we should simply, graciously choose to obey rather than over-complicate the situation with complicated philosophical arguments.
Consider how Jesus answered the question of whether we should pay taxes. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” (Mark 12:14-15)
The Roman Caesar was an immoral person and the Roman government spent tax money on all sorts of ungodly agendas and programs. Therefore, it was possible to reason that a follower of Christ should refuse to contribute resources to such a government. Yet Christ taught a simpler approach.
Mark 12:17 NKJV
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him.
It is not our responsibility to unearth all the evil tentacles that permeate this world’s political systems. As believers, we know that not only will God judge all the secrets of men, but he is able to accomplish his perfect plan despite and even through the broken systems of this world. Consider how a Roman tax levy enabled Christ’s birth to fulfill prophecy and – most importantly – how the unjust Jewish and Roman legal proceedings set the stage for Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins. Where would we be without that?

We should be enthusiastic to do whatever good we can do.

As followers of Christ, we should be most enthusiastic about what we are for than what we are against. We can stage large protest rallies to oppose certain causes and policies, or we can direct our energies at making a positive difference instead.
Anyone can post political memes on Facebook, but how many believers who rant and rave on social media are actually making a positive difference in their communities for Christ? One act of kindness to a person in need and every word of witness for Christ in person is worth infinitely more than a thousand Facebook posts.
“To be ready for every good work” hints at another important principle. Though we should comply with the laws and regulations of our government officials, we should refrain when doing so requires “not doing good.”
Acts 5:29 NKJV
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.
As we already noted, this duty does not include secondary, indirect causes (as in our taxes funding bad choices by government), but it does include primary causes, as when a government official or policy requires us to obey God directly. Here are three examples:
If government refuses to allow us freedom to gather for worship.If government requires us to promote abortion in our teaching.If government forbids parents from training their own children.If government prohibits us from speaking publicly about Christ.
We should be prepared to do whatever is good at the direct and primary level and not obsess ourselves with what goes on at the secondary level that’s outside our control and responsibility. The world will be the world and I can’t prevent that, but I can make a difference by doing good next-door with my own two hands.

We should refrain from salacious gossip.

“To speak evil” means to spread damaging information and reports about another person which you are unable to confirm or prove as true. It means to devalue or tear down another person’s reputation, to bring someone down in another person’s eyes.
“Of no one” means “no one,” regardless of what you may think about them or how ungodly they may be. How frequently did Christ spread hurtful information about other people and how frequently did Paul do the same? Not very much and they should be our pattern.
I’m concerned that we do this too easily and frequently. We complain about “fake news” yet fail to realize that we’ve likely passed along far more fake news than we care to admit. How much of the negative things you’ve said about another person’s character and motives are genuinely accurate and true (even if that person is a political candidate with whom you greatly disagree)?
We draw far too many assumptions simply because they fit our personal agendas and prevailing stereotypes. Instead, we should reserve our criticisms for what we actually know to be true – actual facts and policies for instance, but especially our own hearts.

We should be easy to get along with.

Different words translate as “peaceable” in the NKJV. In this case, the word translated “peaceable” means something like “easy to get along with.” In other words, we should not be the sort of people who like to argue, debate, and fight. We should be the opposite. We should avoid arguments and debates, tending towards behavior and words that encourage harmony rather than division.

We should be tolerant.

“Gentle” here means that we should be approachable, kind, and tolerant. By “tolerant” I don’t mean acceptant of every idea and view but rather someone who can be exposed to any number of ideas, even those with which they disagree, without reacting impulsively or rudely towards those with whom they disagree.
Christ himself, the holiest, purest person of all, was gentle in his treatment of all kinds of people despite their failures and sins (Matt 11:29).
Matthew 11:29 NKJV
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

We should be meek.

“Humble” here means to be meek or subdued. In other words, even though we believe (or rather know) that we’re on God’s side of things, we should not attempt to overpower or rule over other people who are in the wrong position.
This word also means we should be the sort of people who put other people first no matter who they are. We do not demand or expect respect from other people even if we are more accomplished, powerful, successful, tenured, or wealthy than they are.
Like Christ, we should always ask, “How may I serve you today?” rather than, “What can you do for me?” “Whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.
Mark 10:44–45 NKJV
And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
If you’re paying attention to Christ’s words, you will recognize more than that he came to serve. He came to serve people in the world – nonbelievers. Like him, we’re called to serve those who hurt, marginalize, and persecute us – not just our fellow believers.

Followers of Christ should empathize with nonbelievers.

As followers of Christ, it’s easy to grow agitated, frustrated, and even angry with the nonbelievers around us. We think and say things like, “They’re taking our freedoms away!” or, “This isn’t fair!” Perhaps we should view them from another angle.
Rather than grow angry and frustrated with nonbelievers for “ruining our lives,” we should be compassionate and patient instead because we were once like them, and the only reason we’re different is the grace of God. We know what it’s like to be sinful, selfish, and separated from God.
If God had treated us as we deserve, we would never have been saved. Yet because of his grace, we who were his enemies have been saved, forgiven, and made his children.
Paul gives six (technically seven) qualities of nonbelievers in the world. These are the very qualities which cause them to say and do the things which frustrate and anger us, yet ironically, these are the very things we used to be and do ourselves.

We were foolish, just like them.

Have you ever made fun of a nonbeliever (whether a politician, a young person, a neighbor, a co-worker, a Hollywood actor, etc.) for doing or saying something foolish? We have a million ways to say, “How could he or she be so stupid!” Yet the reality is, we’re all just as foolish if it weren’t for the grace of God. Be honest, you’re no better than whichever professional actor, athlete, or politician you choose.

We were disobedient, just like them.

We were also disobedient – we did and said things that were not only foolish but wrong. We didn’t just waste money, for instance, we spend money on sinful habits. We even stole money from other people! We disobeyed God and made immoral choices just as nonbelievers do, and the only reason we’re any better today is the grace of God. That’s the only thing which sets us apart.

We were misled, just like them.

Like the nonbelievers we laugh at today (and shouldn’t), we were also led to believe a lie. We believed ideas, pursued goals, and support causes that were designed to hook us, deceive us, and ruin our lives. Being able to see the light today doesn’t change the fact that we used to walk in the darkness before. The only reason we now know the truth is because of the grace of God.
Remembering this fact should encourage us to pray for nonbelievers just as Christ prayed for those who crucified him. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

We were enslaved, just like them.

Like nonbelievers around us, we were not only willfully disobedient to God, but we were enslaved to sin as well. We experienced a variety of strong immoral and selfish passions and strong earthly and temporal pleasures. Our appetites and desires were so powerful that we had to give in. We were addicted and obligated to sin. We had no freedom to do otherwise.
So, if nonbelievers – whether in government or elsewhere – make terrible choices, should we hate them or love them? We should love them and show compassion to them because they are enslaved to their wrong behavior and ideologies. How can we win them to Christ if we’re agitated and resentful towards them?

We lived an evil and envious life, just like them.

Like the nonbelievers around us, we were engaged in a variety of malicious (evil) and envious attitudes and behaviors. Malice refers to behavior that seeks to hurt other people, while envy refers to behavior that seeks to have what other people have. We know from firsthand experience what those feelings are like before God’s grace rescued us.

We were caught up in prejudice, just like them.

“Hated and hating one another” describes this endless cycle of how people look down on others around them only to find that the people around them are looking down on them.
Perhaps you’ve heard the slogan, “America Runs on Dunkin’” (a promo for Dunkin’ Donuts). Well, the world runs on hatred, doesn’t it? If you don’t have someone to hate, you don’t have anything to live for.
There’s always a new person or group of people to detest. We have our favorites, and we have those who are out of favor. We glamorize some and cancel out others. Then before long, those who were glamorized yesterday get canceled out tomorrow.
The world will be a prejudiced place until Christ returns to reign, but believers should be the opposite. Though others may be prejudiced against us, we should never be prejudiced against them. We should love our enemies not hate them. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Prov 25:21-22).

Followers of Christ should be the most gracious people in the world.

We should be this way because the only difference between us and the nonbelievers around us is the grace of God.
Are you a gracious Christian?
Are the qualities that grace supplies evident in your life by the way that you behave towards government officials and the many other nonbelievers in your life?
Do you talk about people with grace and treat other people with grace – all people?
Do you treat and view nonbelievers with compassion because – though they may frustrate you, anger you, and make your life increasingly difficult – you were once like them?
As followers of Christ, let’s provide the world with a fresh alternative. Let’s show them what it means to live with grace. Let’s embrace being marginalized so we can show nonbelievers around us the kind of transformation that grace performs. Let’s break the stereotype of being agitated, angry, uptight people who want everything to go our way. Let’s be like our Savior, filled with the grace of God and gracious toward the people around us, no matter how selfish or sinful they may be.
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