Last summer a friend became a citizen of the United States of America. I wish I could have been there in person to witness it. I did get to see videos and pictures of the ceremony and it looked like it was a joyous meaningful occasion! Now he adds "American citizen" to the list of what identifies him. And this November he will be able to vote in our elections. How exciting!
(Us being silly American Citizens at the Statue of Liberty.)
When we think of who we identify as; we often list spouse to XXXX, parent to XXXX, employee at XXXX, occupation, religion, American, member of a political party, human to our pets, etc. However, Christians have an identity we often forget to mention.
We are citizens of heaven.
A citizen is someone who has membership in a community. It is your position or status. Citizenship comes with rights and responsibilities. Good citizenship requires that you do all the things a citizen is supposed to do. Citizenship is the state of living in a particular area and behaving in a way that other people who live there expect of you.
The apostle Paul writes about "our citizenship in heaven." Paul was a Roman citizen. In the Roman Empire, citizenship was coveted. Roman citizenship was a privileged and legal status. A Roman citizen had the right to have a legal trial and a right to appeal the decisions of the lower courts. We see this come into play with Paul's life in that he appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11) and was imprisoned in Rome while awaiting his day in court.
While in prison in Rome, Paul writes a letter to the church in Philippi. What is important to understand is that Philippi was in Macedonia (modern day northern Greece) and it was a province of the Roman Empire. The people in Philippi had been granted Roman citizenship - not all people in Macedonia had. Their Roman citizenship was a profound privilege and one they highly valued. Paul was telling the Philippians that while they valued being Roman citizens, they had a more important citizenship.
Paul writes to them:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Paul writes to the church at Ephesus:
for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household.
The unknown author of Hebrews tells us that citizenship comes with rights.
"I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE."
"FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE."
This is the new covenant all citizens of heaven are under.
Citizenship comes with responsibilities. How should a citizen of heaven act?
David tells us when writing a description of a Citizen of Zion in Psalm 15:
1 O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? 2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the Lord; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; 5 He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
Just a smattering of verses on how a citizen of heaven should act:
A citizen of heaven obeys the law.
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
We have a rich inheritance to look forward to as citizens of heaven.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be My children.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Citizenship is a valued possession. It comes with privileges. And it comes with responsibilities.
May we first and foremost see our identities as citizens of heaven. In all our actions and words may the world see this in us and how highly we value it. May we act like good citizens of heaven as we go about our daily lives with grateful hearts and a kind and generous spirit towards others. May we strive to be good citizens of heaven:
- as we post on social media may we be truthful and kind
- as we drive our cars may we follow the laws of the road and show others courtesy
- as we go into retail stores may we be patient and friendly to others
- as we spend time at work may our character and work ethic be impeccable
- as we see a need in our communities may we immediately volunteer to serve others
- as we make decisions about the best way to use our money
- as we steward our planet
- as we participate in the political process of our country
- as we make sacrifices for the welfare of others
- as we show Your love to the world
Spirit, we ask that You convict us when we are not acting like citizens of heaven. We ask that You guide our actions and keep our minds and our hearts focused on what has eternal value.
May we never forget and always be grateful that our sins have been forgiven and that we have the profound honor of being called children of God. May we see the world through Your eyes and minister to others. May we be Your humble bond-servants Lord. May all we are be to the glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
May you see yourself in this order:
1. A citizen of heaven
2. A global citizen
3. A citizen of your country