By Mike Hess
“But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
Every time I exercise my privilege to vote as a United States citizen, I thank God for the men and women who have served to protect this cherished right. This right, along with a multitude of other privileges, makes me grateful that I was born in and live in this great country. Multitudes have exhausted their resources and paid a high price to protect the privileges of American citizenship. I never want to take for granted the blessing of being a citizen of this great country.
Around AD 62 the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, a church facing intense persecution. Paul reminded the Philippian Christians of their eternal joy in Christ despite the significant challenges they faced. One way he reminded them of this was by highlighting their rare and prized possession of Roman citizenship. Understandably, this privilege afforded the Philippians many rights and advantages. But Paul wanted them to understand that they possessed an even greater citizenship. Instead of calling the Roman emperor “savior” (which was common for many citizens of Rome), Christians await something that no emperor, king, or president could ever deliver: a new, glorified, resurrected body raised in the likeness of our resurrected Savior (Phil. 3:20–21).
No earthly empire or nation, however powerful, could ever deliver on a promise like that. Our citizenship in our earthly countries can be a tremendous gift from God. But our Heavenly citizenship as children of God is a far greater and more lasting gift. It is a gift that should change our perspective on how we live out our lives.
Here are three ramifications of our Heavenly citizenship on how we should live our lives now:
- We should trust the promises of God more than we trust the promises of politicians and governments. The promise made in Philippians 3:20–21 is astounding and comforting at the same time. No diet plan, gym membership, workout regimen, anti-aging medicine, or health insurance program can promise a resurrected body that will never sicken, grow old, or die. But Jesus has indeed promised that to all who believe in Him, and He will surely fulfill that promise. Citizens of Heaven recognize that all earthly political figures and candidates are fallen and will probably fail at some point to live up to their hype. Our gaze must go beyond earthly political processes and come to rest on the One Whose promises are guaranteed by His faithful and true character.
- We must be mindful of the true King we represent. While we love and appreciate the country God has placed us in, our highest allegiance is to Christ and it is He Whom we represent as ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). That is not to say we shouldn’t be zealous about political causes or candidates that correlate with Biblical values and principles. But we must be careful. As citizens of Heaven we should be sensitive about allowing our hearts to become overly invested in or zealous for political causes. During our stay on earth as pilgrims and sojourners (1 Pet. 2:11) we can be bold yet gracious, truthful yet kind, zealous yet not obnoxious. And the motivation for living in this way isn’t to win votes or please people; it’s to please our true King, Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:9).
- We must prayerfully and wisely vote to the glory of God. The privilege of voting is a stewardship from the Lord. Since we embrace a Biblical worldview, we must also accept what Scripture teaches about the fallenness of man. That means all political candidates are deeply flawed. Even so, God has ordained all throughout history that His people live under the governments of flawed people: the Pharaohs of Egypt, corrupt kings in both Israel and Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Nero—the list is long. But our Heavenly citizenship teaches us that the stewardship of voting requires prayerful wisdom and discretion, and a sensitivity to what will bring God the most glory. Think of this as you navigate through a messy and volatile political season: how can we as citizens of Heaven bring glory to our God during our earthly sojourn? I think that perspective will have a profound impact on keeping our hearts and minds fixed on God and rooted in His Word.
An old saying goes, “You’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.” But if we take the Bible seriously, we quickly realize that we must be mindful of our Heavenly citizenship, or we won’t be much earthly good! May our hearts be fixated on our Savior in Heaven as we steward this life wisely during our earthly stay, eagerly awaiting His coming from Heaven.
Mike Hess serves as national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.