CLERGY CORNER: Earthly residence, heavenly citizenship

Posted on 26 July 2017 by LeslieM

I happened to be in Ontario, Canada for their sesquicentennial celebration. One hundred and fifty years ago, four provinces agreed to confederation and joined forces to become one country. The celebration on July 1st included ceremonies in Ottawa, a prayer rally in Kingston and fireworks everywhere. At a Sunday service in Mississauga, one of the political leaders made a presentation that included the history behind confederation. One of his comments remarked on the differences between Canada and its neighbor to the south. One hundred and fifty years ago, Canada was uniting in federation while America was divided by a civil war. Canada embraces immigration and boasts a multicultural existence in most of its major cities. America is apprehensive about the effects of illegal immigration and boasts in the uniqueness of being “America.”

His comments made me think about how nations view themselves in the world. Canada is indeed a beautiful country as seen in both its people and its landscape. Its citizens were right to celebrate their heritage and distinction. On the point of being multicultural, the comment was made that “Canada is what the world wants to be like.” Similarly, Independence Day celebrations were as spectacular and moving as always in America. I listened to the excitement of some who were interviewed after receiving citizenship on the fourth of July. It reinforced the fact that many in the world still view America as the land of opportunity and freedom. And, for all of Canada’s multi-cultural appeal, more immigrants live and work in this country than our neighbor to the north.

Regardless of which country one may emigrate to, once there, he is bound by its laws and subject to its culture. There will always be sections of cities that host large numbers of ethnic or foreign-born residents (and we may refer to them as Chinatown or little Haiti etc.) but they inevitably exist within the confines of U.S. or Canadian governmental oversight. It’s like the apartment-dweller who can decorate with whatever personal items he chooses to make the place his home but the building belongs to and is governed by the owner. There are limits to your freedom and expectations of your responsibility.

At a recent funeral of a Christian minister, the eulogist remarked that the departed had finally gone home. It was a reminder of the Biblical position that believers are residents on earth whose citizenship is in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). To put it another way, Christians may reside among the nations of the world but they belong to the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God refers to the rule of God in the hearts and lives of men. The Bible teaches that God’s physical rule and kingdom will be established by the Messiah at the end of the age. In the meantime, believers live within the parameters of God’s laws as outlined in the Bible. In doing so, they bring God’s light to the darkness of the world.

In Matthew 6:9-10, Jesus taught His disciples to pray “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Rather than be caught up with the worries of life, Jesus encouraged His followers, in verse 33, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Like any earthly kingdom, there are specific entrance requirements to access God’s kingdom. In John 3:3, Nicodemus learns that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” While America and Canada rightfully celebrate their heritage as premier nations of the world, the truth is that they did not always exist. And some nations and people that once existed have faded into the footnotes of history. How reassuring for believers then to know that they are citizens of a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28) and is an everlasting kingdom (Psalm 145:13).

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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