Our nation can, by its example, teach the world the true meaning of that democracy which was to be made safe throughout the world. The essence of democracy is found in the right of the people to have what they want, and experience shows that the best way to find out what the people want is to ask them. There is more virtue in the people themselves than can be found anywhere else; the faults of popular government result chiefly from the embezzlement of power by representatives of the people—the people themselves are not often at fault. But, suppose they make mistakes occasionally: have they not a right to make their own mistakes? Who has a right to make mistakes for them?
The Saviour not only furnished a solution for all of life’s problems, individual and governmental, national and international, but He also called His followers to the performance of the duties of citizenship: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” was the answer that Christ made to those who were quibbling about the claims of the government under which they lived.
The citizen is a unit of the community in which he lives and a part of his government. Our government derives its power from the consent of the governed; what kind of a government would we have if all Christians were indifferent to its claims? No rule can be laid down for one citizen that does not apply to all; each citizen, therefore, should bear his share of the burden if he is to claim his share of the government protection. The teachings of Christ require that we should respect the rights of others as well as insist upon the recognition of our own rights. In fact, the recognition of the rights of others is a higher form of patriotism than mere insistence upon that which is due us and the spirit of brotherhood is calculated to create just such a community of interest. Each will find his security in the safety of all—the welfare of each being the concern of the whole group.
In a government like ours the Christian is compelled by conscience to avoid sins of omission as well as sins of commission; he must not only avoid the doing of evil, but he must not permit wrong-doing by law if he can prevent it. In other words, the conscientious citizen must understand the principles of his government, the methods employed by his government and the policies that come before the government for adoption or rejection. He is a partner in a very important business—a stockholder in the greatest of all corporations. If the good people of the land do not do their duty as citizens they may be sure that bad people will use the power and instrumentalities of government for their own advantage and for the injury of the many.
An indifferent Christian? It is impossible. A Christian cannot be indifferent without betraying a sacred trust. And yet every bad law, and every bad condition that can be remedied by a good law, proclaims an indifferent citizenship or a citizenship lacking in virtue, for popular government is merely a reflection of the character of its active citizenship.