Man’s responsibility is his ability to respond or answer for his conduct or behavior. You may note two elements in this statement. Responsibility is a response or answer. And responsibility is definitely an ability to respond or answer. That creature only is responsible who is able to give answer for his deeds before God. This every rational-moral creature has. And therefore every man, angel and devil will appear in judgment before God and be called to give answer for every thought, word, desire and deed which has ever been his.
The implication of responsibility is that man has a calling. Every answer implies a call which is answered. God is the one Who calls us and gives us work to perform. To Him we will have to give an answer for how we conducted ourselves in that work. And since the subject assigned speaks of the Christian’s political responsibility, it has to do with the Christian’s life in the sphere of civic matters, the matters of government and State. The word comes from the Greek word for city.
And finally by way of introductory statement, we may say that responsibility means that we must answer. It is our calling to answer and we shall never escape it. For every deed which we perform, we will be brought into judgment and we will be required to answer. For all responsibility is to God. The employer may call you in and ask you to answer for an infraction of his wishes. The parent may send for and call in his child to answer for this or that deed performed. The police may issue to you a ticket which requires of you that you appear in court and answer for a deed performed. But each and every time it is also that for which God demands an answer. And in the day when we appear before His judgment seat, we will be required to answer for that deed.
Nevertheless we must not overlook the element of ability in responsibility. Men may deny that they are responsible. They may ask as Cain did, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We may doubt that we need to answer for what we have done to the brother or failed to do for him, but the fact remains, that we will not escape that judgment seat and avoid giving answer. Exactly because God has made us to be rational-moral creatures, we have responsibility before Him. The brute beast of the field may have to answer to his owner. The wild jungle creature and even the little mouse in your home will not be called before your bar of judgment to answer why this or that deed was performed. Nor will these appear in judgment before God and answer in the judgment day. With the shedding of their blood, their existence is gone. But man, made in the image of God as a living soul, with a rational-moral nature, exists everlastingly and has the ability to answer. Most assuredly he will do so even when he escapes the searching eye and questioning tongue of his fellow men.
Responsibility is always first the obligation, demand and ability to answer before God. Our political responsibility before our government and before our fellow men is secondary and must never be put on the foreground. We must conduct ourselves in the consciousness of being responsible before God and only for His sake before men. That is what Paul teaches us in Romans 13. He writes, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power (authority) but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” God gives answer to no man for His works. He is sovereign and need not answer us, if it does not please Him to do so. All authority is of Him, for His is the Creator. And all creatures shall give answer to Him. Let us remember that when we speak of man’s political responsibility. The question is not what men demand of us and like to see us do. The question is rather what God demands and what deeds there are for which we can give a good and satisfying answer to Him. Never mind what any political party may tell you is your responsibility. Ask yourselves, young people, whether the action can be performed and you can through it and because of it give God a satisfying answer. We have fulfilled our responsibility in any sphere of life, in the home, in the shop, in political matters or in any other sphere only when we are able (for responsibility is the ability) to answer God’s call by works that please Him. It is not merely a matter of answering pretty soon in the judgment day. That belongs to the subject. But it means that now we are able, not only as rational-moral creatures who can understand God’s call, but also as regenerated children of God, to do that which He calls us to perform. Our works must be the answer to His call to activity.
The Christian’s political responsibility is no different from the responsibility of the unbeliever. Both as rational-moral creatures can know God’s will. They, the unbelievers, see the invisible things of God, namely, His Godhead and power. They too must be subject to the powers that be. But the Christian’s responsibility is unique in this that he is God’s royal priesthood and bears God’s name in the midst of a wicked world. He has the responsibility of upholding that name in his political, social, family and church life. He may not bring reproach to that name by his failing to answer the call of God in the sphere of his political life (or in any other sphere) by actions that are not the response of obedience to God’s call. He has then an added responsibility because he has an added calling.
Needless to say, he need not respond in compliance to the call of his government when that government demands the wrong answer to God’s call. We must obey God rather than men. He need not listen to this and that political party that has no authority over him. There may conceivably be times when he cannot vote and his response must be to God that he does not and will not support either of the wicked candidates. There may be projects and proposed endeavors on which he certainly must vote. A safe guide always is for the Christian to ask what the will of God is and what He says in His Word. Always the first question must be as to what answer one must give to God in this circumstance. Answer that question correctly and you have also solved the problem as to what your responsibility is before men. Always it is a responsibility unto God and before men.
There are principles in the Word of God to guide us. The so-called golden rule applies. The instruction of the Heidelberg Catechism, in the treatment of the commandments five through ten, is also worthy of note in this matter. We are to be faithful to the authorities; do good even to our enemies; promote the advantage of our neighbor, defend and promote the honor and good character of that neighbor. For we are our brother’s keeper. We are to promote our neighbor’s advantage. And since we live in a country where matters are decided by majority vote, we may strive to prevent the evil proposed from being adopted by factions that are moved with selfish interest and not the good of the community.
We are citizens of our country. We are residents of cities, villages and states. And Jesus told the wicked Pharisees, who wanted to have Him oppose Caesar, to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. That surely means that to the Christian’s responsibility belongs his call to answer with obedience that tax program of his government. And we will have to give answer to God in the judgment day for these matters as surely as we shall for our conduct in His Church. We must be able to answer with obedience in the affairs of the State.
To vote or not to vote becomes increasingly a question when the platforms of the candidates become more openly a promise to produce the antichrist. For although no man is going to hold you responsible—for to date no record is kept of how you voted—for the man in office, there is a political responsibility before God. We will have to answer Him whether we voted or not. And even though the antichristian boaster for whom we voted did not get in office, our desire to have him further the lusts of our flesh and vote for carnal reasons still, in His judgment, is not the right answer to our calling.
Let all your political activities be performed coram Deo—before the face of God—and you have fulfilled your responsibility. Ask, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And then answer His instruction with obedience.