The presidential election season here in the United States of America has sparked a few thoughts in my mind I have been wanting to write about. One of which is a question that popped in my mind while reading a story about the immigration debate between the two main candidates. As an American citizen, and a Christian, I asked myself, “which one comes first?” Am I an American Christian or am I a Christian American? This question may seem silly at first, but the underlying point is real and important to all of us Christians across the globe.
Here in the USA I have seen this presidential election season cause division between individual Christians and even get into the churches and cause division. Social media pages of Christians are used frequently to espouse which candidate is God’s candidate. They range from cordial opinions to extreme aggressive divisive opinions.
Let’s cut through all of this noise. What says God’s Word about this? Whatever country you live in as a Christian, are you to primarily view yourself as a citizen of that particular nation, or should we put our emphasis elsewhere?
Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Ephesus explaining to them how that in Christ, God has brought the Gentiles into the same country as the Jews who are in Christ. The Old Testament is about God dealing with the world through the nation of Israel (the Jews) as His chosen people. The Jews had many blessings and privileges given them from God. Then the New Testament picks up and shows us Jesus Christ comes to die for sins of not only Jews, but all people everywhere (Gentiles too).
The Gentile believers could fall into the trap of thinking they were second-class Christians since they were not originally Jews. The Jewish Christians could also fall into the trap of thinking they were the higher-rate class of Christians since they descended from the chosen race of God.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:19, “So then you [Gentile Christians] are no longer strangers and aliens (or foreigners), but you are fellow citizens with the saints [the already believing Jewish Christians], and are of God’s household,….”
Paul says even more directly in his letter to the predominantly Gentile Christian church at Phillip that, “For our [all Christians] citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 NASB).
God’s Word through the Apostle Paul is that a Christian is not to be identified by which nation they are from. A believer in Christ is not to be focused on whether they are an American, or a German, or Frenchman, or an Asian, or a Hispanic, etc. A Christian is to first of all bear the reality in mind that we are citizens of no nation on this earth. When we are in Christ, we are all citizens of God’s Kingdom.
My identity in Christ is not because I’m an American. My identity in Christ crosses nation-state boundaries. My primary citizenship is in God’s Kingdom above.
Does this suggest that we should not care about our particular countries? Does this mean we can ignore the laws and values of our earthly countries we reside in? Of course not!
God’s Word says multiple times that we Christians are to set an example to the world by being model citizens of the countries we reside in (Romans 13 & 1 Peter 2:13-20). What I am saying is we cannot let the matters of our countries come before the reality of our citizenship being in God’s Kingdom for all eternity.
This means our focus is on eternal matters and not primarily on earthly, national matters. We don’t ignore these. Rather we don’t let them overshadow our call to see the Gospel of Christ spread across all nations. We view the matters of our countries through spiritual glasses now that we are citizens of Heaven first. We Christians cannot get wrapped up in our physical identity of a particular country. We Christians are instead to remember that we are all one nation in Christ.
Remember that we do not get into God’s Kingdom based upon what country we belonged to here on earth. Christians from all over the globe will be worshiping before God’s throne as the people of God (Revelation 7:9-10).
Whatever politics or governance is at play in your country, remember you are first and foremost a citizen of Heaven in Christ Jesus. So go and live like it.