Setting our Minds on Things Above - The Christian’s True Citizenship
How should Christians respond to the storming of the U.S. Capital Building? How should Christians respond to allegations of voter fraud? What is a Christian to do with the near impossibility of trying to determine what is truth, and what is a fabrication? How is a Christian to respond when your preferred candidate didn’t win the election…or when you struggled to find a preferred candidate…or when you are experiencing fear over whether you made the right decision?
The thing that may surprise me the most is how little I have been asked these questions. Maybe it is because we are losing the ability to dialogue. Maybe it is because so many of us have already made up our minds.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Quite frankly, I don’t even understand all of the questions. I’ve got nothing to contribute to questions on election legalities or on the latest twist on any number of controversies put forward by the left or the right. I can’t answer those questions and no-one is asking them of me anyway. But I do believe the Word of God gives us a framework for how Christians are to think about such issues. Below is my humble effort to shepherd God’s people through this framework. Please receive it as such.
FOCUS ON YOUR CITIZENSHIP
The apostle Paul had to remind the Philippian Christians, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) They needed the reminder, and so do we. The events of the world seem to exert a gravitational pull on the Christian, dragging our hopes down with the institutions of man. But then and now, the Christian has a different hope. And we need the reminder.
But Paul’s reminder was not the first time this truth was taught. Jesus repeated it throughout His life and ministry. When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man while in Gentile territory, He sent him back to his family and friends and instructed him to tell them all the Lord had done for him. (Mark 5:1-21) Yet later in the same chapter, while in Jewish territory He healed Jairus’ daughter and told them not to tell anyone. Why the difference? Maybe John 6:15 provides our answer. Jesus withdrew from the Jewish crowds because He perceived they sought to take Him by force and make Him king.
The truth was, He was already king. He was and is the King of kings. But in John 18:36 He gave clarity to His kingship (a clarity to which the entirety of Scripture points). There, when confronted by an earthly leader who seemingly had power over Him, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
People in the gospel missed Jesus’ true identity for many reasons, one of which was that they were looking for a different kind of king. They were confused about their true citizenship, and it led to much earthly wrangling. Then and now, the Christian is reminded in Scripture to focus on his/her true citizenship.
TRUST IN THE TRUE SOVEREIGN
With this renewed focus, we are also called to a renewed trust. Kings are called sovereigns and sovereigns rule with sovereignty over their subjects and their territory. In our world, their earthly, limited sovereignty is marred by the fall and is at times fleeting in its effectiveness. Jesus on the other hand experiences no such limitations.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” To uphold the universe is to extend His rule and reign over ALL. So Christian, do you believe this truth which is emphasized throughout Scripture? Do you believe the word of God? If so, trust in the true Sovereign. Trust that the results of an election did not slip by Him. Trust that the future of our nation, whatever He has ordained that future to be, is not somehow beyond His grasp, but rather is fully in His control. Trust that His ways are higher than our ways. And in trusting in the Sovereign, know that He calls Christians to be His ambassadors of hope to a lost and hurting world.
LEARN TO LISTEN TO ONE ANOTHER
As ambassadors, know that the promise of God for the people of God is that He will be our God and we will be His people. And as such, God’s people are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom. 8:29) To be conformed to the image of the Son means that our hearts and our lives begin to look more and more like Him.
As image-bearers being renewed in the image of Christ, we are also to see that those with whom we disagree are also created in the image of God. (Gen. 1:26-27) Sin has marred the image, including our own, so humility ought to be a marker for the Christian...as should a willingness to listen to one another. To listen does not mean we must approve. It is also true that enmity remains between the spiritual offspring of the woman and the spiritual offspring of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), but perhaps we are a little too quick to define those lines based on our agreements and disagreements. So let us learn to listen to one another, valuing the image of God in others, marred as it may be in all of us.
JOIN IN THE WORK OF REDEMPTION
Then let us join in Jesus’ work of redemption, never forgetting that He is the One doing and accomplishing the work. This work of redemption will come to fulfillment in the New Heaven and New Earth when we will finally hear the words of King Jesus as He is seated on His throne, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) The work will be complete then, and only then, which means we should not expect it here and now. Yet we join in, bringing the Kingdom of God to bear in the various spheres of our lives.
This bringing the Kingdom of God to bear is part of how we fulfill our role in Jesus’ parable of the Kingdom found in Matthew 13:33. We are the (good) leaven that is spread throughout the flour until it is all leavened. As we live and think and act and love and work and play and befriend and listen, all out of a Biblical worldview and a heart redeemed by Christ, the watching world will take notice. Yes, some will be repulsed. But those whom our King is calling to Himself will draw near. And the institutions in which we engage will be impacted, not by the force of our will, but by the glory of Christ in us.
We started this long rambling with a simple question. How should a Christian respond to the political environment in our country? Ultimately, we are to respond in the same way we should respond to any set of circumstances. We are to worship.
Hebrews 12:28-29 seems to summarize this whole framework of thinking well by pointing us to humble yet firm posture: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
My friends, I do not have all the answers. I actually don’t have many at all. But I believe the Word of God invites us, no commands us to rest in Christ. We are not to despair. We are not to respond as the world would respond. We are to remember we are citizens of a different Kingdom, and because we are citizens of a different Kingdom, we are to worship our King.