Citizens of Somewhere Else
“We are not from round here.” That is what the residents of the first-century Greek city of Philippi—even those who were born there—might have said, for they lived by Roman laws, wore Roman clothes, and wrote their documents in Latin. They were Roman citizens. The whole place looked like Rome—but it wasn’t Rome. Citizens of Philippi were in Greece, but living as citizens of Rome.
Being a Christian, Paul told them, is similar: we’re living the Christian life while absent from the Christian capital—which, you will be relieved to know, is not Washington, DC, or London! The true “Capitol steps” are far higher and far grander. Our citizenship is in heaven, and when we live as aliens here—as people who don’t belong—we’ll make a difference in the world around us.
As Christians, our great daily opportunity is to walk out into another day and be different—to be what we are: citizens of heaven, people who are not from round here. We should find people saying, “Hey, I can tell by the way you walk and talk that there is something different about you.” This means that when you think about your life, you need to ask yourself some questions: What is the object of my devotion, the thing that makes me tick and drives my existence? Is it my appearance? Is it my portfolio? Is it passion and pleasure? What am I living for?
The Bible warns that if we live to “enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), eventually they’ll eat us up and squeeze the life out of us. Instead, we are to live in expectation of future glory. We are going to be transformed; we will have new bodies “like his glorious body.” Our heavenly bodies won’t be weakened by sin, by selfish desire, or by disintegration. We are going to be home one day, and it is going to be wonderful!
If people suspect from your life and discover from your speech that you have a citizenship in heaven, that you serve a living God, and that you are looking forward to going home, where your life will be utterly transformed, then sooner or later some of them will ask you to give them “a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
So, remember where you are from. The impact of the gospel, under God, is directly related to your willingness to live like Christ. Allow the wonder of your heavenly citizenship to make you sensitive and compassionate as you move among those who are “enemies of the cross” (Philippians 3:18). Christ will return—and when He does, the day you get home will have arrived. If that proves not to be today, then today is a day of opportunity for you to be different. How will you take that opportunity?
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Submission to Authority
13Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution,2 whether it be to the emperor3 as supreme, 14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants4 of God. 17Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
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