Reflections Of A Citizen
October 29, 2020 | Didi Bacon
November 8, 2002, is a special date for me: On this day, I was officially sworn in at the US District Court of Southern Ohio as an American citizen.
The USA is my country of choice, and I am proud to call myself an American. My journey to American citizenship has been an interesting one. I started as a Rhodesian. I was born in a place once called Rhodesia, a former British Colony in Southern Africa. I had a Rhodesian passport.
Then things changed, and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980. So I became a Zimbabwean. (I also carried a Mauritian passport for a short time as my mother was born on the Island of Mauritius.)
When I left Zimbabwe to study in England, I had a Zimbabwean passport. My dad was a British citizen. He married my mom when I was seven years old. When we were in England, through my dad, I was able to apply to become a British Citizen and carry a British passport. On that British passport, I came to the United States to complete my ministry studies in Cincinnati.
At Cincinnati Bible College, I met my wife, Shannon. We were married in 1992, and I applied for and was granted permanent residence status. After the attacks of 9/11, I realized just how much I had fallen in love with America. I wanted to do my part in civic life, so I began the application process for citizenship, which ended in an emotional swearing-in event at the courthouse in Cincinnati with Shannon and my four kids. I am a Rhodesian-Mauritian-Zimbabwean-British-AMERICAN!
November 8, 2002, is a special date for me as a citizen. But it is not the most significant date for me.
I have another date that ranks higher when it comes to my citizenship: April 25, 1982. That is the day I was immersed into Christ after I confessed to all who were gathered around that swimming pool that, "I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I accept Him as my Lord (leader) and Savior (forgiver)." On that day, I pledged allegiance to the King of kings and Lord of lords - Jesus Christ. That day, I became a member of the Kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9-10), and I became a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20-21). This is my true citizenship. My first allegiance forms the basis for all of my other life commitments, including my American citizenship. So what does that mean for me?
- It means I view the role of government from the perspective of God's Word. Here is a summary: God is Creator and Law Giver. Government, law, and civic code are his ideas. These institutions exist at his pleasure. God's Word reveals that the government's purpose is to punish evildoers (execute justice), protect the innocent, and ensure good citizens can live and flourish in peace. Check out Paul's explanation for why Roman Christians needed to live as law-abiding citizens in Romans 13. Also, I encourage you to dive into the writings of the Old Testament prophets, who routinely reminded the people of Israel that God raised up kings and kingdoms to fulfill His purposes.
- It means I heed the numerous calls, from scripture, for Christians to be the best law-abiding citizens they can be. American Christians, therefore, ought to pay their taxes, keep the laws of the land, pray for the king, along with others in authority, to be generous by helping the poor and advocating for the marginalized, to have healthy marriages and well-behaved children, to be neighbors committed to the good of the community and to participate in civic life by voting and serving on a jury. Check out 1 Peter 2:11-25, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, and Luke 20:20-26.
- It means I follow the example of New Testament Christians who would not compromise on their loyalty to King Jesus. If the law of the land clearly violates the law of God, the choice is clear - God over man. So if it is deemed illegal to share the gospel of Jesus with others - I choose God over man and tell my friends about my faith. If it is required that my wife abort our child because it is against the law to have more than two children - then we will keep our baby.
- It means I recognize that while politics is a necessary part of our civic process, it is conducted by flawed people. Politicians are not church leaders, and therefore cannot be held to that standard. Voting decisions may mean choosing the "best" option available. I prayerfully ask - "Lord, grant me the wisdom to make my vote for the person who best aligns with the purposes you clearly show for the role of government." While we all want to like "our guy," what we have to ask is this: Does "my guy" pursue his role as outlined in the Constitution? If elected to office, will she serve those she represents to punish evil, protect the innocent, and provide an environment where people can flourish?
Let me say one last thing. I love this country. I am so glad God called me to serve here. I think our system of government works. The principle of checks and balances — Judiciary, Executive, and Legislative branches — is brilliant. I think the idea of a democratic republic captures scriptural principles. The system works best when we wrestle with the ideals that are grounded in the Constitution. But we have to accept that checks and balances create conflict! When there is no gridlock and push and pull, it is not at its best. That is why the electoral college is genius. It allows for both the rural farmer in Iowa and the metropolitan stockbroker in New York City to be players in the election of the President of the United States.
I have lived under different government systems and can appreciate the upside of the one and the other's downside. But I can tell you that what we have here is something to be thankful for, something to be hopeful about, and something to participate in. That said, remember that while it is a blessing to live in America, as a Christian, my first citizenship is heavenly. I serve a King. His name is Jesus. My service to Him commits me to be the best US citizen I can be, living by his Word and his will. Since becoming a citizen, I have not missed a vote, I don't intend to skip this year. It is a privilege and an honor. It is what my King asks of me.