Building God Family Citizenship
What is your responsibility to your community?

Herbert W. Armstrong often talked about God’s way of life versus the way of the world in the very simplest terms: give versus get. He used this terminology in Mystery of the Ages: “But it was necessary that he [Adam] resist, and reject Satan’s ‘get’ way, which was the foundation of Satan’s evil government, and choose God’s way of His law—the way of love (give), the basis of God’s government!”

Mankind’s inclination toward the “get” way began in the Garden of Eden. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Genesis 3:22). Of course Adam and Eve wanted to take the good; of course they wanted to live forever!

On several occasions, I’ve been involved in counseling young people who have left God’s Church, spent a little time in the world and realized, This is not for me, and they want to come back. It often comes up that they miss everything God had to offer: S.E.P., Imperial Academy, their friends, going to the Feast, being around people who aren’t living sinful lives. But we have to help them to consider what they’re going to give to those programs.

What are you going to give to S.E.P., to Imperial Academy? It’s about giving! Like Adam and Eve, we all want the good, but there is good that we have to give—founded on obedience to God’s law.

Consider the masses of illegal immigrants flooding across the southern border of the United States. Why are they coming to America? To take! Everybody wants a better life, but you can’t just go and take it! We all want the good, and God wants to give us the good—but we have to think about what we are giving back.

What are you willing to give to your parents? To your local church area? To S.E.P.? To school?

I recently picked up a textbook from 1957 called Building Citizenship. What American curriculum used to teach young people focused on what a citizen can give to his or her country.

The current generation has the opposite focus—what is owed to me, what my rights are—but not what are their responsibilities.

That book teaches how to be a good citizen of the United States. A citizen is a participating member of a community.

We might all be citizens of different countries, but we are citizens of a very special community: “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Our ultimate citizenship is in the Family of God! Even if you are not yet baptized, you are sanctified and set apart for that path—made holy (1 Corinthians 7:14). You’re part of that Family.

The textbook makes the point that “rights come with corresponding duties.” Each of us is given so many blessings in God’s Church, but we have individual responsibilities. The rights are there, but they are there when we fulfill our duties.

The textbook enumerates several points on how to build citizenship—a number of which are biblically based. We can apply these points to how to build God Family citizenship as well.

1. To be a good citizen, you need to know what is going on in the world.

This is the first point the textbook makes. As citizens of the God Family, we are told to do just that. In Matthew 26:41, Christ commands us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Your mind is going to be on something. Christ tells us to watch and to pray—to get your mind on the news, Bible prophecy and what God is doing. If we’re not focusing on that, then all we’ll focus on is the entertainments of this world. You want to watch and pray so that you don’t enter temptation—so you don’t get distracted by unimportant things. The flesh is weak! If we’re not careful, we can get pulled in the wrong direction. Put your mind on the things going on in this world and how they are fulfilling Bible prophecy.

Ask yourself: What do I give in conversation? This is a duty of a citizen in the Family of God.

Luke 6:45 makes the point that we speak what is in our hearts. Whatever we think about will come out when we’re talking to each other. Not every conversation will be about Bible prophecy, but we should be able to talk about it. You have easy access to the Key of David television program, the Trumpet Daily radio show, the Trumpet magazine, etc. These are the years to be familiarizing yourself with those programs and their content; that way you can give back through awesome conversation in your classes or at college or in your congregation.

The older members love it when you have something to talk about with them! If we don’t have this understanding of the world in common, then what do we have in common? Understanding what is going on in this world is part of your responsibility as citizens.

2. To be a good citizen, develop wisdom.

That is a point out of a textbook to American youth in 1957! Wisdom is “knowledge and the capacity to make due use of it.” It’s not just the knowledge, but knowing how to apply it. Building Citizenship reads, “We should learn to recognize what is good and what is not good and then conduct ourselves according to the good.” God’s “royal law” must be the basis of our conduct (James 2:8). He gives us all this knowledge—we need to put it into practice.

“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). A citizen of the God Family is going to fear and obey God and depart from evil. You need the wisdom to see something that’s not right and say, No, I’m departing from this—this is not going the right direction. That is our responsibility as citizens. We must not “follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2).

James 1:5 says that if we lack wisdom (which we all do), ask God for it! Nobody has perfect wisdom as a human—we’re all working to improve that. Wisdom is something we should pray for every day. It’s one of the benefits God gives us, but as citizens it is our responsibility to ask for it and apply it.

3. A good citizen learns how to get along with other people.

“We are not all alike, nor are our ideas and interests just the same. But if each of us would practice the golden rule, there would be much more happiness and peace in the world” (ibid). We’re all different, but we are all citizens of the same Family. God doesn’t want us all to be the same. But we do have to learn to get along with other people, and the best way to do that is to apply the golden rule.

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). That’s the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated! That is a responsibility you have as citizens of God’s Family. God commands us to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Appreciate the differences. Appreciate the different perspectives. Be respectful to each other. Ultimately that will spread to all mankind!

One of the things that really struck people with the latest Celtic Throne tour was that God’s youth got along—they actually seemed to like each other! People really notice it when young people get along with each other. That impressed people and gave them hope. That’s something we owe—getting along with people we’re fellow citizens with. And the beautiful thing is: As we get along with others, they get along with us.

God loves variety. He loves the fact that people are different. We all bring something unique and special, and we need everybody’s contributions. Sometimes we can let nerves or being self-conscious prevent us from giving our all. Forget about it. It is our responsibility to give God our best; don’t let anything get in the way of that.

4. A good citizen develops proper relationships with government.

There has to be government in God’s Family—and that’s a great thing. It is there to help you! Use every opportunity you can get to develop a strong relationship with God’s government.

The world’s view of government is much different from God’s: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

Christ came to serve—and He set us an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21). God’s government is there to help and to serve you. Develop a good relationship with your local minister. Develop a good relationship with your teachers at school—whether you attend Imperial Academy or not. Authority figures in God’s Church can be your friends and helpers—“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Joy comes from keeping God’s law. If there is correction from the ministry, it’s ultimately to bring you more joy! Your responsibility is to develop a good relationship with that government. God loves it when we are close to His ministry; it brings us closer to Him.

5. To be a good citizen, develop your talents.

Be productive! Become the best you can be! The more you develop your talents, the more you have to give. And the more you give, the more you receive! God’s way is a virtuous cycle.

“The person who finds out what kind of work he likes to do, and what kind he does best, and fits himself to take his place in the world of work will live a richer, more contented and satisfactory life. That in turn will have an effect on the community in which he lives” (ibid).

Many people today don’t want to work. There is help wanted everywhere because people don’t want to work or develop their talents and abilities. God’s Church should be full of talented, accomplished young people. It is our responsibility.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ….” Christ became a skilled carpenter. That wasn’t His ultimate job, but He worked hard at it! You owe it to God to develop the talents He gave you. It’s for your good and everybody’s good.

The textbook continues: “For every one of us who has completed a 12-year course in the public schools, our community and state have spent, on the average, at least $3,000 [$31,000 today]. If your parents send you to a private school, it may cost them much more than that. Is that money wasted? Will your community have reason to regret spending so much on you?

“If you do not take advantage of these opportunities now, the chances are that when you grow up and are called upon for bigger and better service, you will not be ready.” Develop your talents and take advantage of these opportunities now! That will prepare you when bigger opportunities come. And they are coming—if you are ready for them.

Building Citizenship brings out several more points that we can apply equally to our God Family citizenship:

6. A good citizen is courageous.

7. A good citizen will never harm his country.

8. A good citizen is honest.

9. A good citizen is intelligent.

You have the right to be here! But you have responsibilities to make sure you stay here. Apply these points to give back to your community—the God Family—by building God Family citizenship.