With all the Fourth of July festivities, I’ve been thinking about Philippians lately. (Say what?) Give me a sec – I’ll explain.
Orange County, California, where we live, DOES the Fourth of July like none other. It’s Red-White-and-Blue-Fest 2016 out there. Fireworks. Picnics. Parades. Themed clothing. You name it.
I love the Fourth of July. I grew up watching fireworks explode over our northern Wisconsin red pines, getting bitten raw by mosquitos, and eating just ooooone more s’more.
In elementary school I loved learning about the courage of our Founding Fathers, proclaiming independence in the face of an oppressive British government. I imagined myself throwing tea into Boston Harbor, riding along with Paul Revere, and signing the Declaration of Independence with a flourish worthy of John Hancock himself.
I am thankful every single day for the hard-won freedom I’m granted to speak, to question, to proclaim, and (most of all!) to worship. America isn’t perfect (is any earthly place?), but I feel blessed to call it home.
I’m a proud citizen.
Yet my American citizenship is not the most important thing about me. Not even close.
Back to Philippians. Chapter three, verse twenty, to be exact. The apostle Paul writes:
Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
In Paul’s day, citizenship was everything. As a Roman citizen, Paul was awarded rights and privileges that a non-Roman could only dream of. He was important. He was special. He was protected. Being a Roman citizen was much like being an American one today.
Yet as he writes to the fledgling church in Philippi, he focuses not on his status as a Roman but on their nationalities or civil rights but on the shared promise of the Gospel to each of them. As followers of Jesus, they were not Philippians first or Romans. They weren’t Jews or Greeks or men or women or young or old or slaves or free.
Their citizenship was in heaven.
Their identity was in Jesus.
Their hope was in the radical belief that God loved them, loved their neighbor, was bringing his heavenly kingdom to earth, and that they were invited to be a part of it.
I love being an American, but my most important citizenship is the one I share with brothers and sisters in Christ both here in my backyard and from across the globe.
My citizenship is in heaven.
How about yours?