20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
– Philippians 3:20-21
As we honored Veterans this past Wednesday, it brought to my mind what being a citizen of Heaven is about. People who have had opportunity to travel to other countries understand that being in a different land, speaking a different language, and having a different distinct identity can be quite lonely and alienating. It is in the same vein that Paul speaks to the Church in Philippi.
We who are called by God to be Christians are no longer living for ourselves, but as citizens of Heaven. As Paul reminds us of that, he points out that even though we live in a strange land, we are yearning to return to the land in which we belong, in which we call our home, where there is Shalom, peace, under the rightful King.
Knowing that we are living in a broken world, at this time tainted by sin and death, we who are Christians. Let’s stop here briefly. Christian. The different identities we take, whether it be Americans, African American, male, female, pastor, are secondary to our identity as a Christian, a citizen of Heaven.
We, who are Christian from a different land are to tell others about this home that we are returning to one day. Like delegates and diplomats living in a foreign land, we know that we cannot take anything with us when we leave. In so understanding this, God calls us to tell others not citizens of our Kingdom about the land in which we are citizens. How we act, why we have these customs or traditions, why we do the things that we do. It may be as simple as informing and explaining who we are to those who have not yet known this land.
How do we take this understanding and live it out? 2 ways. 1. We cultivate the life and culture of the people and the church so that if outsiders come, they are amazed and curious about our life as a Christian family. 2. We actively tell and act as ambassadors and citizens from a different land wherever we go, knowing that we are not yet home, but sent from a different kingdom to tell others about this land.
In the end, this is what Jesus did. Jesus was the first missionary from Heaven to come and live among us, even unto death, to tell and show us what the Kingdom was all about. Now, he sends us out in the same way, to tell others about this land, and to ask if they would like to be part of it. At first, as foreigners visiting, but ultimately with a hope that the testimonies, and the character of Heaven’s citizens reflected, that others would so desire to be part of the Kingdom of God, they would take on that citizenship of Christ, and become Christians themselves.
Before I was a Christian, I began going to a bible study and I found it interesting to study the Bible, but I found it so strange that there was nothing distinct about the Christians I encountered at the meeting other than what I perceived as a very long novel they were reading together very slowly, and that they closed their eyes when they were talking to some strange invisible god.
However, as strange as the meeting itself went for myself, I found myself entranced by two scenes after the book reading discussion time. I found myself listening to two women talking together as they washed dishes and 2 men sitting at the table listening in on the same conversation.
The women talked about a land they yearned for and relatives they seemed to know. They talked with such genuineness about Heaven that they seemed to have been there and such compassion and good feelings toward the people they have met there. I was so taken aback when they invited me to meet those people and informed me that the bible was a letter from the King to us. It sounded so strange, but when I witnessed how they lived, and how they talked about this family and the king of this kingdom, it so caused me to yearn in my heart to meet other citizens from this strange land and the King of their Kingdom. A King that came to search for me. A King that paid a ransom for me with his life. A people compassionate for others, not only of their Kingdom but of others. These citizens that were here for a time, to tell me about this strange land. I wanted to be part of it.