My wife Morgan and I were both born and raised in the United States, but three years into our marriage we actually moved to New Zealand and lived there for five years.
We love New Zealand – the people are kind, the culture was great, the scenery was stunning, and I particularly loved the fly fishing. But even after living there for five years, I really couldn’t hide the fact that I was actually an American.
This really wasn’t ever a problem or anything, but I would go through the checkout line at the grocery store and attempt to do my best New Zealand accent. I’d speak five words, but they would still recognize me as American.
I spoke differently, I tended to wear baseball hats, and my sense of humor was a bit louder. In many ways, I was a representative of America to the friends I made in New Zealand. They would see stories about America in the news, and they would ask me about it. They knew many generalizations about Americans, but the personal relationship I had with them was sometimes more influential on their viewpoint.
In Philippians 3:20, Paul reminds us that
“Our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”
In 1 Peter 1:17, Peter says we are living through a time of “exile,” referencing the time in Israel’s history where they had been taken from their homeland and scattered throughout the modern world.
2 Corinthians 5:19 Paul says “we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.”
All of these verses are different ways of saying the same basic thing: while we may be living on earth, our true citizenship is in Heaven. We belong to God’s kingdom, first and foremost, and while we live on Earth we should represent God’s Kingdom to others.
Thanks to Revelation 21, we know what God’s Kingdom will be like. No more tears, no more mourning, and no more pain. There will be no sin, there will be peace between all people, and there will be peace between God and humankind.
This should guide every aspect of our lives. Being a citizen of Heaven does not simply mean we go to church on Sundays or read our Bibles. It means that the way we raise our families, the way we go to school or go to work, the way we treat our neighbors, literally every aspect of life should be transformed by our citizenship in Heaven.
This means that we seek unity above division, we seek to serve rather than to be served, we seek reconciliation over revenge, we choose love instead of hate. This list could go on and on and on, and frankly, it can be kind of daunting.
Ultimately, the hope would be that our lives are so distinct that, even if we’re just going through the checkout line at the grocery store, people would recognize us as citizens of Heaven.
Again, this is a daunting task, but fortunately, God has simplified Kingdom-living for us. In the next topic, we will look at how, practically, we can get better at representing God’s Kingdom. But before that, there is a task for you to complete where you will look at a few passages that describe what it means to be a citizen of Heaven. I hope it proves helpful, and we’ll see you back for the next video soon.