10 Ways to be Effective Citizens for God
If you know me, then you know that I serve on active duty with the military and I have been for the past seventeen years. A while back, I received an email from the Sergeant Major of the Army, and his message was to encourage the leaders in the Corp of Non-commissioned Officers. The intent was to bring ideas of true leadership to the front of our minds and remind us what a true leader looks like. While I was reading this message, I couldn’t help but think of how universal the principals are and how well they apply to the Body of Messiah and our role in leading the rest of the world to God.
While God does call all of us to different roles within the Body, we all should apply these ten principals to our lives in order to serve God and serve each other effectively. Of course, I’ve tweaked the wording of each point a bit to be applicable to us, but the general ideas come from that email I received from the Sergeant Major of the Army. The link to the email is at the bottom of this blog in case anyone is interested in reading it.
1. Knowledge doesn’t make you a good citizen; community does.
We can study the Bible every waking hour of our days and become the most knowledgeable people of the biblical text in the world, but until we put that knowledge into action in a productive way in our communities, then we are not participating as active and effective citizens in God’s Kingdom. Sitting at home and refusing fellowship with other believers simply because you cannot agree on a checklist of theological points is not productive for the Kingdom of God. Throughout the entire Scriptures, unity of God’s people is always of high importance regardless of differences. The very fact that we are currently under the punishment of dispersion as a Kingdom shows the importance of unity. If your actions and words are against the unity of all the Kingdom of God, not just the few who agree completely with you, you are working against God and His Kingdom. You need to stop.
References: Malachi 2:10, 1 Corinthians 1:10, Ephesians 4:11-13, Psalm 133:1, Ephesians 4:3, Romans 12:16, 2 Chronicles 30:12
2. Think before you speak.
One day, while sitting in a hospital waiting room, I had a discussion about the importance of our tongues and the effect our speech has on our walks and our witness. In our attempt to walk out the fullness of God’s Word from the Torah to Revelation, we often focus so much on the fact that God has given us instructions on what to eat, but we ignore what the Bible says about guarding what leaves our mouths. The Scriptures speak much more about how we use our tongues for words than how we use them to sustain our physical bodies, but we never want to address that issue as much as the other. If we are to be effective members of God’s Kingdom on earth, we must learn to be slow to speak and stop spewing the first thing that bubbles up our throats in our attempts to be right or first. If our words are not edifying, whatever factual content may be embedded within them doesn’t matter. We should carefully calculate our every word to ensure they are for the edification of the Body of Messiah.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
References: Proverbs 18:21, Ephesians 5:4, Proverbs 11:19, Proverbs 15:1, James 3:5-8, Matthew 12:26-27
3. If you find that you often must remind people that you’re a believer in Yeshua (Jesus) and that you’re walking in His footsteps, you are probably off course.
I was having a conversation with a close friend about titles one day, and we were discussing all the titles that are thrown around for this walk: “Hebrew Roots!” “Messianic!” “Torah-Observant!” “Truth-Seekers!” You get the point. Everyone always wants to know what kind of believer we are, how we label ourselves as a group of like-minded believers. When people ask that inevitable question, my friend said he only hopes to respond as Yeshua did. Yeshua was speaking about this very topic with His disciples, noting that people wanted to know who He was. The disciples relayed that people were saying He was all different titles, but Yeshua then asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” And what was Peter’s response? When the Lamb of God asked Peter who he thought He was, what did Peter say? “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” When people ask us what kind of Christian we are or what denomination we are, we should be able to simply ask the same question Yeshua Himself asked: Who do you say I am? If the answer does not include “follower of Jesus” or “child of God” or “faithful man or woman,” then we have stumbled off the path somewhere and need to pull out our compass and reassess our path forward. Other people should see the Light of the World shining His Light through us regardless of theological differences.
References: Matthew 5:16, 1 John 1:5-9
4. You must work very hard at being more informed and less emotional.
Sometimes what we think to be a new truth is not a new truth at all. Sometimes we’re just regurgitating something that sounds good and different, and if it’s different than the rest of Christianity, it must be true. At least that’s the mentality that many run into today. This isn’t always the case. As the article states, we must “take the time to do the research.” Real research. Not reading internet blogs or watching YouTube videos. If we’re to be the ones to bring truth to the Body, we better make sure that’s what we’re actually bringing.
One change I will bring to this point is that there is a single emotion that should not be left out in all of this. That emotion is love. I recently read 1 Corinthians 13 as part of a wedding ceremony. We all know that chapter, as it is read so many times for weddings. It fits. However, when we look at the whole letter, that portion was intended for the Body of Messiah, not just individual marriages. That truth hit me so hard during that wedding. We can have hold of every truth of the Bible, but if we don’t hold onto that truth while serving others in love, it means nothing.
That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15)
5. It’s ok to have fun.
You know what the most pious men of Israel did in the Temple, in the Court of the Women, during the week of Sukkot? They juggled fire. They turned flips. There’s a time for reverence and respect for our King, but sometimes we lose our smiles all around when we become too serious about how we measure up (chief sinner here). This seems to be very prevelant in this corner of Christianity. Our search for truth has left us with no compassion and no joy. That is completely upsetting because things like joy, kindness, and gentleness are all fruits of the Spirit—evidences that the Spirit of God dwells within us. We’d hardly know at times.
It’s ok to have fun. That falls under the fruit of joy. It’s ok to go bowling with other believers. It’s ok to have a BBQ. It’s ok to let loose in worship before our King and smile and laugh. God has called us to live in joy, and if people don’t look at us and see joy, then what is the image of God that we are portraying? Are we distorting the image of God on earth? If we aren’t spreading the joy of God to others, are we being effective citizens of the Kingdom of God?
Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:24)
References: Ecclesiastes 8:15, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Deuteronomy 12:7, Psalm 149:3, Proverbs 17:22, 2 Samuel 6:16
6. Don’t be the feared one.
If people see you coming, and they run the other way for whatever reason, something isn’t working. I used to know a man who would “trap” people in unfruitful conversations that were not beneficial or uplifting. People would literally run the other way to avoid his delivery of his latest “truth.” Often, I see people complaining that others just don’t want to hear truth if they aren’t listening to them. Sure, there are times when others don’t want to hear the truth, or at least our version of truth. However, our delivery of that information is often what causes people to run. How can we expect to be effective citizens in the Kingdom if no one wants to be around us? Remember, the Kingdom of God is to be lived out in community.
Reference: John 3:18-21
7. Don’t do anything—and I mean anything—negative toward others over email, text, or social media.
When dealing with other people, this isn’t just good advice—it’s a biblical mandate. This point falls under the principal about what comes out of our mouths as well, but it deserves its own spot. Too many times we resort to passive aggressive Facebook posts about others, or even other general groups, or we text our issues to other people who are not even involved. The other day, I was just talking to a couple of brothers about how it’s easy to speak negatively about other people when we don’t have to look at them face-to-face. It’s harder to do so when we look into their eyes. “Keyboard warriors” are an issue of the world; they shouldn’t be an issue of the Body of Messiah. If you’re speaking negatively about someone else, you need to go to them, and a text doesn’t cut it. If all you ever do is post negative posts about others who don’t agree with you, you should reassess your postings.
On that note, disagreeing with someone on a theological point is not being negative toward the person so long as the discussion remains within the theological points. This is encouraging for the Body and needed for growth. But when we let those disagreements on theology lead to negative speech toward others, we need to get back on track. This is especially easy to fall into on social media because, as stated above, it’s easier to speak that way when you don’t have to look into his or her eyes.
References: Matthew 18:15-17, 1 John 4:20, Galatians 6:1, John 13:34
8. Being nervous is a good thing.
Recently I was talking to the co-pastors at my congregation, Laymond and Nathan. Laymond told us that he still gets nervous every time he gets up to give a message or teaching, and we both agreed with him that we do as well. We all united in the idea that it’s not only ok to be nervous but it’s actually a good thing. Being nervous about your walk and your approach to other people shows that you understand the seriousness of your walk with God. It shows your humility in knowing that you can fail at times because you know that you don’t have it all figured out. Being nervous pushes you to do your best and be your best before God and His people. Being nervous shows that you need others, a truth we should all realize. Being nervous is having the fear of God.
References: Deuteronomy 6:24, Psalm 112:1, Proverbs 19:23, Luke 1:50, Malachi 3:16-17
9. If you justify being an expert in the Bible with your age or your time spent “walking in Torah,” then you should take a break and reassess your walk.
Time spent doing something does not qualify experts, and we should all realize that at no point on this side of the World to Come will anyone be an expert at walking with God. There’s a reason we’re told to always remember (some would suggest that means daily) our Exodus from Egypt. We should always remember that at one point we didn’t know nearly as much as we know now. We should also remember that we still have much to learn, and part of that learning is knowing that we can learn something from everyone. God is able, and often willing, to use anyone, even the most unlikely, to teach us the personal lessons He wants us to learn. Instead of pretending we are experts in all truth, we should humble ourselves and see what we can learn from everyone around us. Sometimes we miss the lessons God intimately wants to show us because we are too caught up in being experts in the eyes of others.
A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. (Proverbs 1:5)
10. Never forget that you’re just a brother or sister in Messiah. That’s it.
Nothing about a deeper walk with God makes you better than anyone else. Nothing about knowing more about God’s Word makes you better than anyone else. Those things should make you better only at humbly serving others.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
References: Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:3, Proverbs 22:2, Romans 2:11, Malachi 2:10
I hope this list encourages you to take a deeper look at your walk. As believers in Messiah, we are all members of the Commonwealth of Israel, God’s Kingdom, but are we being effective members? Are we impacting the world around us in positive, uplifting, and encouraging ways that shoves people toward God and a closer walk with Him?
Matt has been a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for many years and has been on the Messianic path since 2007. In 2016, he co-founded Beit Shalom Messianic Congregation in Monroe, LA, and he currently serves as a co-pastor. He incorporates his studies in biblical languages, archaeology, and cultural history into his teachings.
Matt graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe with a degree in Social Sciences. He then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Old Testament Studies from Amridge University, and he is currently a PhD candidate at the same university. He serves as an active duty servicemember and lives on a working farm. He married Malissa in 2008, and they have three beautiful girls and one handsome boy.