Their mind is on earthly things

“Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:19–21)

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13–16)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

May we citizens of heaven enjoy peace today and every day. May we always be looking forward to the city to come, not backwards to the place we came from.

Whatever the outcome of the elections today, remember that it’s only temporary.

“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:24–25)

Citizenship, ethnocentrism, and politics

Wooden ballot boxGot involved in another discussion about citizenship, this time centering around the Pledge of Allegiance. (I’ve written a number of articles about my views on saying the Pledge) That led me to think more about how citizenship and nationalism affect our politics.

At some level, citizenship is a given. Our modern world pretty much obliges us to be a citizen of some country. The spiritual truth is that we are citizens of heaven and foreigners in every nation of this world. Our difficult task is to reconcile the pragmatic realities with the spiritual ones.

Nationalism is feeling loyal and proud of your country. Ethnocentrism is the belief that your people are inherently better than all others. This may be tied to a race or a tribe or a nation. This belief leads us to judge all other countries in terms of our own. It often goes hand and hand with nationalism, though not necessarily so.

How do these things affect our politics? When making political decisions, people typically want what is best for their nation, even if this comes at the expense of other nations. If we as Christians recognize that our nation is the Kingdom of God, we will make one kind of decisions. If we view the United States as our nation, we will make different ones. That’s one reason that I think it’s vital we understand where we are from and where we are going (using the language of John 13:3).

As Christians, we seek the good of all people, not just those of the country we hold citizenship in. We pledge ourselves to actively work for the good of all nations, not just the United States. We place the good of all men above our personal good and above the good of the country we live in.

We should be fervently nationalistic about the Kingdom of God. We should give whole-hearted allegiance to that great nation. We should make it clear that our patriotism is for our true patria, not the place of our birth nor the land where we now live.

And our political decisions should reflect those realities.

Blessed to worship

crossI was fortunate this past Sunday to still be in Orlando at the Equip Conference and to be able to worship with the Spanish-speaking brethren there. Even though it was July 3, worship stayed focused on God and not on country.

I’ve argued that our Latino brothers have much to teach us about what it is to live as aliens in this world. Many non-Latinos understand it as well, but I think living in a culture that remains vibrant because of immigrants helps these brothers grasp what it is to be part of a colony of foreigners.

May we remember that we are foreigners. May we remember that we are ambassadors. Even around patriotic holidays.

Patris and patriotism

We’ve all got favorite passages, right? One of mine is Hebrews 11:13-16, where it says:

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13–16)

In doing some research the other day, I saw something interesting. The word which ESV translates as “homeland” in verse 14 is the Greek word patris. Aside from this passage in Hebrews, it’s only used in the gospel stories which refer to the passage about a prophet being without honor is in his own place.

It’s interesting to me that this word is often used to refer to hometown (like in the gospels), and the Hebrews writer describes the patris they are seeking as a city that God is preparing. The feeling seems to be that of a place to belong, a place to be identified with. That’s what we’re looking for, what we don’t really have on this earth.

I’ve said it before: I’m very patriotic… for the patris that God is preparing for me. No other loyalty can rival that.

A foreigner’s Fourth of July

file000965646047Can you imagine what it must be like for aliens on Independence Day? (Aliens as in foreigners living in this country, not E.T. & Company)

I remember special days in Argentina. I was happy for those who celebrated around me, and I enjoyed the special foods that always accompanied those celebrations. There were school pageants to attend, and my kids took their place along with their other Argentine friends. I tried to learn about the celebrations and tried to enjoy them, even if they weren’t mine.

Civic holidays tend to be a bit more “in your face” in the United States. They especially find a place in churches in a way that I don’t see in other countries. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing red, white and blue.

So can you imagine how it feels for a foreigner? Can you imagine participating in the celebrations only to a point, recognizing that, while you benefit from the existence of this country, you’re not fully a part of it?

I’m hoping that you can imagine it quite well. For we are the foreigners, the strangers, the aliens…

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11–12)

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.” (Psalms 39:12)

I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.” (Psalms 119:19)

We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” (1 Chronicles 29:15)

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13–16)

“Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:19–20)

photo from MorgueFile.com