For our conversation [citizenship, government] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. —Philippians 3:20
The heroes of faith detailed in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews were of sundry nationalities, lived in different generations, and died diverse deaths; but they had something in common. Their eyes were enlightened with a spiritual perspective which caused them to confess they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” In their pursuit of a heavenly country, their purpose was not to be mindful or overly considerate of their earthly home.
It is incumbent upon children of God today to understand clearly that there are two kingdoms. One kingdom is of this world and the other is a spiritual kingdom. One kingdom is entered into by natural birth and the other is entered into by being “born again” through the Spirit of God (John 3:3). Jesus Christ is the ruler of this second kingdom and He said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36). The Kingdom of God is within every blood-washed child of God (Luke 17:20-21). It is not a political kingdom but a kingdom of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
Children are citizens of the country in which they are born. It is natural and proper for children to grow up with a love and appreciation for their respective countries. Citizenship is one element which defines who people are and is a big part of an individual’s identity. However, people are often drawn into a spirit of nationalism and patriotism for their home country. They pledge their allegiance and devotion to their earthly country and stand in its defense, sometimes even to the degree of bloodshed. Nationalism is often accompanied by a spirit of superiority which is contrary to the Spirit of God. That which is in the interest of one country is often diametrically opposed to that of another country. Which government or people is best in the eyes of God? To which country and to which cause would Christ pledge His allegiance? In Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28) in the sense that while there are different nationalities, all are equal in the Kingdom of God through the plan of salvation.
While saints of God are citizens of an earthly kingdom or country, they are called to be strangers and foreigners in this earth as they seek for spiritual things in their love and service to God. Children of God answer to a higher call and to a deeper allegiance than that which the countries of this world demand.
As citizens of both an earthly and spiritual kingdom, one of those kingdoms will take precedence. While it is important for saints to be respectful of their countries and to be good, hard-working, law-abiding citizens, they are to devote themselves and align their beliefs, practices, and lifestyles to the spiritual rather than the earthly kingdom. When Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17:14-16, He clearly communicated that His followers, while in the world, were not to be of the world.
Followers of Christ will have very different purposes and motivations than those reflected by the kingdoms of this world. Saints of God must keep a guard against aligning themselves wholeheartedly with their respective country lest it come into conflict with the basic tenants of love and humility required in the spiritual kingdom. A militaristic spirit or a spirit of carnal protest is not compatible with the Scripture, no matter what the cause.
While saints around the world are of different races, nationalities, and languages, their unity is in Jesus Christ. That unity should never be broken nor should saints ever be at odds with one another because of earthly kingdoms. Saints are a “called out” people and they should live accordingly.
The apostle Paul, referring to spiritual warfare, said, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier”
(2 Timothy 2:4). Children of God must be careful not to get entangled with the affairs of this earthly kingdom. Politics, nationalism, protests, etc. can very quickly begin to dominate one’s life and cause one to violate the deep and eternal principles of Christ Jesus.
It is worthy to give God thanks in whatever country for the blessings and benefits of the earthly kingdom in which one lives. Children of God should appreciate any and all freedoms extended by the governments of their natural citizenship. That appreciation should not turn into vain promises and pledges that violate the loyalty and allegiance to the Lamb of God. While pilgrims and strangers in this land, the benefits of heavenly citizenship far outweigh those of the governments of this world.
There is a place of peace for Christians in the recognition that while they abide in an earthly kingdom, their chief citizenship and identity rests in a spiritual kingdom. ■