On Sunday evening, we’ll be looking at what it means to live as a worthy citizen of Christ’s kingdom from Philippians 1:27–30. In these verses, Paul makes an allusion that is not picked up in our English translations. In v. 27, Paul alludes to the fact that we are to live as citizens of Christ’s kingdom (the phrase ‘let your manner of life’ comes from the Greek word politeuomai which shares a similar root to our English word politics).
When God does the miracle of giving us saving faith and thereby uniting us to Jesus, there is a trade of citizenships that occur. Paul describes it in Colossians 1 as a transfer from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of Christ Jesus.
It is a change with radical implications.
I’m sometimes asked whether I hope to become an American citizen one day. If that were to happen, I would be asked to take an oath that I would “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” That’s a mouthful, but I’m supposed to promise that my final allegiance—nationally speaking—is to the United States.
In a much greater way, as Christians, the kingdom transfer that happens in our conversion means that we will now subordinate all other loyalties—including our national ones—to Christ and his kingdom because our citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20). The name on the front of our passports is not our fundamental allegiance. Because of the gospel, our identity and our commitments are now oriented according to heavenly realities concerning Christ and his Kingdom.
Now, of course, there is still a sense in which we are citizens of Canada, America, or whatever country you are from. There are civic rights that we exercise and civic duties that we do well to discharge. Since politics effects our life together, it is appropriate for Christians to thoughtfully engage in politics; but, even as we do those things, now that our citizenship is in heaven, our hopes do not rise and fall with our country’s prosperity.
Though there are some hard things about living as a Canadian in the United States, one advantage I find is that I’m regularly reminded that I don’t belong here. Don’t get me wrong – there are many things I do enjoy about this country and I care about the well-being of this place, but it’s not home. In one sense, it will never be home.
This is in the Christian’s outlook. The affairs of this world matter, but this world is not home. The hopes of our heart need to be constantly peeled off this world and set to look ahead to our everlasting home, that city with foundations, made by God (Hebrews 11:10).
We are living in a time in this country of amped-up political anxiety, on both the political left and right. What an opportunity then for the church, as we realize in greater measure the wondrous reality of our heavenly citizenship, to be provocatively counter-cultural. We have an opportunity for the church to stand out in the world as people possessing an other worldly calm because we know that this world is not our home.
That’s one of my hopes for Harvest. That among all the fear and rage of cultural commentary, our conversations, and social media feeds would mark us as being people of peace because our hope is fixed with Christ in heaven. Because as people notice that, we can point them to the King who gives us reason for calm, the King who makes princes rise and fall… and that’s what matters most.
In His Service,
Pastor Wayne Veenstra