The question of citizenship has come up again, this time in a group on Facebook. For some, it’s a minor issue. For me, it’s a major one.
The thread quickly spun out of control, in my opinion, and I’ve done my best to refrain from making it longer. The discussion is occurring in a group that seeks to focus on practical ministry issues, not ideological debate.
So I’ll post some random thoughts here. Some I’ve expressed before, some I haven’t.
- The Bible never says that we should live as good citizens, at least not of any earthly country. I grew up hearing that and believing it to be true. But it’s not there. We are told to live as aliens, strangers and ambassadors… and citizens of heaven. (OK, Philippians 1:27 actually says to live as citizens, but I think the context shows Paul isn’t talking about living as good citizens of Rome)
- Opposing American exceptionalism isn’t being anti-American. Christians should be pro-America, just like we are pro-England, pro-Afghanistan and pro-Mexico. Our desire should be to treat all nations of this world equally, since we are equally aliens to all and ambassadors to all.
- Yes, Paul claimed to be a citizen of Rome. I’ve offered ideas on this, but recognize that those who want to grasp at straws will grasp at straws. I’m a citizen of the U.S. by birth. I can’t change that, at least not as far as the world is concerned. When forced to declare citizenship in official situations, I don’t state, “Citizen of heaven.” Yet my heart knows which is true, and I want my life to declare the same.
- I won’t kill for this country, nor any country. I find especially abhorrent the idea of taking the lives of fellow believers, yet many have told me they would freely do so in the name of country. I can’t picture it.
- I understand somewhat the idea of country as an extension of family, as merely a larger community we are a part of. Yet I find countries acting as “the powers” described in the New Testament, coming to have a drive for self-preservation that puts them in competition with the Kingdom of God.
- I won’t pledge allegiance to a flag or a country. I won’t treat national icons as sacred, nor use religious terms in reference to military nor political entities nor their members. If I’m going to err in this matter, let it be on the side of avoiding idolatrous behavior. Let me be accused of too much loyalty to God.
- I refuse to stand in judgment on those who come to different conclusions. I’ve journeyed long to reach the point where I am; how can I condemn those who stand where I once stood? And I’m quite aware that I am a fallible man who could be wrong in these judgments.
- I won’t be ashamed of my convictions in this matter. I won’t be apologetic for making the choice to value my heavenly citizenship so highly that I won’t share it with other entities.
Lots of thoughts. Each of those statements could spark a flurry of responses in the original context, so I’ll post my views here. If I can’t stand the heat, I shouldn’t write in The Kitchen.