Discounted Citizenship

Did you know that as Christians our true citizenship is in heaven?  Philippians 3:20-21, states “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” What, exactly, does this mean? And do we act like we really believe it? How should we act if we really believe it? I think it goes to our allegiance.

The Lord keeps putting this notion in my mind as a reminder that my true allegiance is first and foremost eternal, to heaven and my King and Lord, and not to the USA, England, China or any other earthly nation, power, or human. It’s not that these other things can’t get and keep my attention; it’s just that when it comes to all things, my first thought needs to be, “How does this play out in the Kingdom of God?” That is my true heritage, and so I must always try to keep it intact.

Nevertheless, when followers of Jesus put other things – like their “patriotism” – ahead of heaven, they discount their true heritage and citizenship and they dishonor their Lord. This also happens when they mix up their true heritage with other worldly things, like notions that are part of “Christian nationalism” or politics.

Indeed, as followers of Jesus, our eternal citizenship is far more powerful than any earthly citizenship. That’s because we’re not only citizens of heaven, we’re literal heirs to God’s Kingdom. Paul wrote this often, such as to the Galatians (3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”), and to the Romans (8:16-17, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”).  If you were an actual heir to an earthly kingdom, such as Great Britain, would you even consider being citizen of some other worldly place? No way! Being an heir is far more powerful than simply having citizenship. So, if we know and believe we are also heirs to the Kingdom of God, why would we align or put our allegiance anywhere else? Well, we wouldn’t. And we shouldn’t.

Still, during this past year I’ve seen a rise in the United States of what many people are calling “Christian nationalism” – or, as Tim and I call it, “political Christians,” meaning people who identify a particular political party with Christianity or who have generally allowed politics to get all mixed up in their theology. In short, they’re putting their allegiance somewhere beside the place of their true citizenship – the Kingdom of God.

We’ve written about this dangerous way of thinking before, and it appears to be uniquely American. Only in our country do some of us believe that WE, the people, have to vote a certain way and pray the right man into leadership, and that if he doesn’t win it is a “stolen election,” against God’s will, and driven by Satan. This isn’t only dangerous to the democracy in the USA, it’s also discounting the Truth of the Word of God. As Tim and I have often written before, if you think God is so weak that He needs you to vote a particular way for Him to achieve his ends, then – at the very least – you don’t believe in the complete sovereignty of God, which is a central tenet of what we all proclaim to believe as Christians. Noted Christian apologist, R.C. Sproul, was fairly harsh on this matter; to him, if someone didn’t believe in God’s sovereignty in all things, he was likely to call them an atheist. Now, this was mostly an outrageous statement designed to get people’s attention. But, to Sproul, questions about God’s sovereignty didn’t distinguish between, say, Christians and Muslims or between one Christian denomination with another. They distinguished between theists and atheists. Ouch.

Of course, all this leads to a more refined discussion on free will, prayer, and other complicated notions like determinism, but that’s left for another day. My point on this day is that whenever you discount something as fundamental as the sovereignty of God, you also discount your own citizenship in His Kingdom, which should have led you to trust in God all along. You do so especially when you show an allegiance to some other entity or philosophy vying for your “citizenship,” such as a political party. Our true citizenship is eternal and heavenly, and in that realm (and, indeed, in this, His created realm) God needs no help whatsoever. Knowing that, why would you ever shift your allegiance?

But I see people mixing their citizenships and shifting allegiances all the time. Recently, I had an encounter with a neighbor while I was gardening in front of my house. Usually, when I meet someone, I always try to test the Spiritual waters of that person, and so I often mention God, Jesus, or Christianity in passing. This time, the person actually said, “Oh good, you’re a Christian. There are a bunch of us at the end of the block and we’re all Republicans, too.” Stop! Did you notice that? A complete mixing of theology and politics.

I was immediately disturbed. First, I was disturbed for her to associate a particular political party to Christianity – indeed, to the exclusion of other people (parties) like Democrats and Independents. Jesus was Not political and, indeed, his apolitical ways were one reason why the religious leaders of his day wanted to arrest him as he appeared a clear threat to their own political power and way of life. But, second, I was disturbed because I think it signaled that she had discounted her heavenly citizenship. She was shifting her allegiance right before my eyes.  

The fact is that having an eternal, heavenly citizenship is bound to lead to being a bit of an outcast to everyone else in the world. If you truly believe you are an heir to God’s Kingdom, then you’ll probably be both disappointed and encouraged (and thus, likely be both correcting and praising) various aspects and positions of all political parties. If those positions don’t line up with the Bible, then they simply aren’t a part of the place to which you enjoy citizenship and, indeed, are an heir.

You may recall that Jesus admonished and rebuked the religious leaders of his time, the Pharisees and Sadducees, for taking Gods’ word and applying it in an overly-humanistic and religious manner, while forgetting what the intention of the word was in the first place.  Specifically, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for parading themselves in ostentatious clothing, demanding to be addressed by titles, and requiring the best seats at banquets. He called them out for hypocrisy and lying. Sound familiar? How many of our “Christian” leaders are just searching for recognition, forever trying to be photographed with some important person, and hoping to find a platform where many people can see them (and, of course, pay them). The Sadducees, on the other hand, were the political religious leaders. Aligned with Rome, they had a tremendous amount of political power that they used to accommodate the Romans in maintaining the status quo. They had their hands in everything going on in the temple, and they displayed alarm at Jesus’ ministry. Sound familiar? How many of our “Christian” leaders are overtly political, bound up in the workings of government? How many issue prophesies over elections? Indeed, how many would be alarmed at a ministry like that of Jesus were it to surface today?

It may be that these earlier groups didn’t really understand why Jesus rebuked them. They likely thought they were doing everything right by following their own notions of Jewish law and the realities of Roman rule. But they’d never seen anything like Jesus. He was like some sort of alien. His citizenship was eternal. His allegiance was to the Kingdom.   

My question to us today is, where is our true citizenship?  Where do our hearts reside?  We’re either 100% Christian and citizens of heaven or we’re not. Accordingly, we must remember our allegiance, and must never discount our true citizenship by even one percent.

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