Until Christ comes again, Christians live as citizens in this world and citizens of heaven. We are dual citizens who have the duty to love God and our neighbor in our earthly countries with a different kind of power than the world has. Where Rome demanded allegiance through aggression and superiority, followers of Jesus depend on a power that comes from the Sovereign King himself. This power is made known in our weakness because it makes much of his strength (2 Cor. 12:9).
The first book of the Bible I had the privilege of preaching through was the joyful letter to the Philippians. I didn’t know it then, but this little letter written nearly 2,000 years ago would be branded into my heart forever. Besides the beautiful proclamations of Christ and his glory, the main idea that struck me was the reality of a Christian’s citizenship. Paul teaches the small church in Philippi that they are citizens of heaven (3:20). This was not some random thing for Paul to write but instead would have had deep meaning for the Philippians. In fact, it would have challenged something they held very dear: their Roman citizenship.
Some Christians can find themselves focusing more on their earthly citizenship than their heavenly citizenship.
The little colony of Philippi was proud—almost boastful—of their citizenship as a Roman colony. Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) won a decisive victory for Rome years earlier and made Philippi an official Roman colony, granting its residents Roman citizenship (Gordon Fee, NICNT: Philippians, p. 161). A major part of the population was composed of proud former soldiers who had served in the Roman military. Philippi was a people and place that reveled in patriotism.
As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I understand what it means to be a proud citizen who has served my country. Yet, as proud as I am, I am also concerned that some in churches in the United States can misunderstand their identity at times. Rather than focusing on being disciples of Christ and citizens of heaven, they may tend to opt in for the popular identity of being American citizens and patriots.
Rather than being formed by the King of heaven, it can be tempting to soak up hours of the Joe Rogan podcast or to become imitators of Jordan Peterson. Rather than living out the ethical qualities of the kingdom (Matt. 5-7), some adopt a worldly view of power. Rather than striving side-by-side for the faith of the gospel (Phil. 1:27), some are merely staunch advocates of Second Amendment rights, big beards, and craft beers. While I’m not opposed to any of these things, they should not determine our prime identity.