The Apostle Paul paints a picture of a Christian being somebody who is in limbo of sorts. We live in the world, but it is yet not our home. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ live in places and settings that are downright hostile outwardly. Others in situations that seem more benign, but can be incredibly deadly to faith for those who are complacent.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian church:
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself, (Philippians 3:18-21, ESV).
Our citizenship is in heaven. We are not home. We are resident aliens. Those who know Jesus Christ are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Michael Horton, in The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World, writes about Christ’s kingdom.
Christ’s kingdom is its own culture: holy rather than common. That does not mean that it is an alternative subculture. In other words, there is no such thing as Christian sports, entertainment, politics, architecture, or science. In these common fields, Christians and non-Christians are indistinguishable except by their ultimate goals and motivations. Ironically, many of the statistics we read today show that professing evangelicals do not differ from non-Christians in their core beliefs and ethics, while as elaborate “Christian” subculture flourishes, (pg. 249).
It sounds like in many ways we haven’t reneged our old citizenship in the world. Perhaps we want to maintain dual citizenship. Horton brings up an account of the Church in the second century recorded in the Epistle of Diognetus… see how Christians are described:
Christians are distinguished from others “neither by country nor by language nor by customs.” They do not live in their own ghettos or “use a strange form of speech.” They do not differ in cultural customs of their respective lands or in dress or food. Yet in their ordinary lives “they show forth the remarkable and admittedly strange order of their own (heavenly) citizenship.” “They live in fatherlands of their own, but as aliens. They share all things as citizens, and suffer all things as strangers. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign land… They pass their days on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven,” (pg. 249).
That last phrase… “They pass their days on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven.” How often do we really live like that? Do we believe it? Does it show? Horton quotes Augustine from his work The City of God as Augustine reflected on the relationship of the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Augustine wrote:
There are the two loves… the first is social, the second selfish; the first consults the common welfare for the sake of celestial (heavenly) society, the second grasps at a selfish control of social affairs for the sake of arrogant domination; the first is submissive to God, the second tries to rival God; the first is quiet, the second is restless; the first is peaceful, the second, trouble-making; the first prefers truth to the praises of those who are in error, the second is greedy for praise, however it might be obtained…. Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.
Which city are you living in? Which Kingdom do you serve?