Citizens

Citizens

There’s a lot of talk about politics right now . . . Well, it seems like there’s always a lot of talk about politics in America. Nearly everyone has a (strongly held and loudly vocalized) opinion.

So perhaps this is a good time to think about this:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).

It won’t jump out at you in the ESV above, but there are a couple of translations that bring out the nuances of a word that Paul intentionally used.

“Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (TNIV).

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (NLT).

The key word there is citizens. Paul used a word that meant “to live as a citizen.”

People who lived in Philippi were extremely pleased with their Roman citizenship. It gave them all kinds of rights that non-citizens didn’t have, so naturally it was a matter of great pride to them.

Paul nudges them gently: “Remember,” he says, “your most important citizenship is in heaven, so be sure to live consistently with the gospel.”

In other words, don’t let your Roman pride trump your kingdom citizenship.

I think that’s a needed reminder for us. Politics get ugly sometimes—lines are drawn, convictions are trumpeted, and identities are formed.

“I’m a Republican!” one shouts, while another points to his allegiance to the Democratic Party. Maybe it isn’t the case, but sometimes it seems that one’s political party is about the most important thing there is.

If Paul were writing a letter to us today, he might say something like this: “Remember who you really are. You may be an American who loves your country, but please remember that above all else you’re a Christian. So don’t let the ugliness and divisiveness of politics cause you to misrepresent what it means to follow Jesus.”

There are serious issues at stake in our country, and sometimes God gives us opportunities to express our biblical and moral convictions in ways that honor him.

But let’s never allow our political passion to outshout and overshadow the Lord we follow.

We are and will always be citizens of God’s kingdom first.

—Chuck

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