Our citizenship in heaven
There's a reason Christians don't always feel at home on earth.
As a Christian, do you ever feel like you don't really fit into this world?
I find this sometimes when hanging out with friends who aren't Christians. We get on well and seem to have many things in common, but there is this massive divide in what we believe, and this affects how we live. The big difference is, I have Jesus as my Saviour.
Sometimes though, I think I fit into the world way too much. Like my friends who aren't Christians, I long to have some successful career. I spend way too much time thinking about how I can impress people. And I see myself as the centre of the universe, putting my own, earthly priorities before God.
Paul speaks of our identity as Christians in his letter to the Philippians. He says...
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ... (Philippians 3:18-20 NIV)
Here Paul contrasts two groups of people - those whose minds who are on earthly things, who are enemies of Christ and are destined for destruction - and those who are awaiting for Christ's return and have citizenship in heaven. It's pretty clear that the second is far better.
What Citizenship Means to Us
I want you to think about the word citizenship.
The word suggests not just a place where one might happen to be, but rather a place where one belongs, is at home.
Last year, my parents decided to take my family on a five-month-long trip overseas. Although there were many places that we went to that I loved, there was no question that I was still a citizen of Australia (where my home is). This was true both in a legal sense (my passport has the kangaroo and emu on it!), and in a more personal sense - whenever anyone asked me where I was from, I said "Australia". I didn't say the name of the country we'd just travelled from, or "the little hotel up the road." And whilst I loved travelling, by the end I was longing for the familiarity of home.
This is a tiny bit like our situation as Christians. We are currently staying in the world, but thinking that this world is our home would be as crazy as me saying my home was the tiny little hotel room we stayed at in Paris. The world is where we happen to be right now, but we are citizens of heaven, destined to be there for eternity - a lot longer than our lifespan here on Earth.
What Citizenship Meant to the Philippians
When Paul reminded the Philippians that their citizenship was in heaven, it was of special significance to them. Philippi was a Roman colony, and therefore those who were born there were granted Roman citizenship. This meant that they were able to vote, stand for election, hold property, sue, have a legal trial and not be tortured or whipped (see Acts 16 & 22).
So the Christians there might have been tempted to think that they were pretty good - they officially belonged to the most powerful empire in the known world, and had special rights as well. But Paul reminds them that they are ultimately citizens — not of Rome — but of heaven. Instead of getting caught up in earthy things, they were to remember their citizenship and look forward to Christ's return.
And the same thing applies to us.
Living as citizens of heaven
I think that if we constantly see ourselves as citizens of heaven, our priorities change.
When I remember that I am a citizen of heaven, I see that chasing after a career isn't the most important thing in my life. I see that I don't need to be impressive or important in this world, because my Saviour has died for me so that I can be in heaven, which will be far greater than the world we live in. I see that I should live for Christ, because he has given so much to me, and I'm reminded that I need to always be eagerly awaiting the return of Christ my Saviour.
We live on earth right now, but our citizenship is in our true home, heaven - where we will dwell with God for eternity.