We love to travel. Through the years Susan and I have had the opportunity to travel outside the United States. When we were able, we took our daughters with us and gave them the gift of the experiences of other cultures, customs, food, and people. But, when you’re in another country, there is that feeling of not being completely at home. No matter how friendly the people are or how wonderful the place is, your citizenship is somewhere else. When we travel to others countries we are always citizens of the United States and that makes a difference in what we do, what we think, and what our experiences are like. That is not to say that everything is different, of course. There are similarities and common ground we can find in every place—no matter how different that place is from our own.
Paul, writing to the Philippians about the Christian life and his own experience uses the image of citizenship. He says that when we live life in Christ, our citizenship is in Heaven. We live the life of travelers, of working residents, of sojourners, even of Ambassadors (another image Paul likes to use), but our citizenship is in heaven. In our New Testament scripture reading on Sunday in the chapel at 9:40 and in the sanctuary at 11:00, we read a portion of a prayer Jesus prays in the gospel of John. In it, he says of himself, “You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give eternal life to everyone you gave him. This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” Philippians and John are both pointing toward a way of living and a way of being. They are pointing to a kind of dual citizenship in which we live in the world and yet belong also to another realm. It is the realm John 17 calls “eternal life” and defines that life as knowing “the only true God and Jesus Christ.” As followers of Jesus we have a kind of dual citizenship—both in the world we inhabit and in eternal life.
I invite you to think about this image over the next few days and explore it with me on Sunday. How does being a citizen of heaven—of eternal life—shape who you are and how you live as a citizen also of this world we inhabit?
I look forward to seeing you then!
Grace and Peace,
John 17:1-11 (Common English Bible)
1 When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you. 2 You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give eternal life to everyone you gave him. 3 This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.”