· church,culture,love

As we are well into plans for this summer and closely approaching 4th of July, we can pause
and give thought to how much we as Americans can be truly thankful for as citizens of this
country. We can say that we are blessed beyond belief and privileged at the abundant socio-
economic opportunities, choices, and systems we have the privilege to partake in. We are also
blessed by the men and women (family and friends) who daily serve, protect and defend our
country at the local and national level. We can stop and consider 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in
everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.

As believers in Christ, we have a supremely greater and higher privilege to be thankful for: we
are citizens of heaven. In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts it: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and
from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul so beautifully describes, in Ephesians 2,
how we became citizens of heaven. Paul also describes the legal status of our “citizenship”,
prior to becoming citizens of heaven.

Paul tells us, in Ephesians 2:12, our legal status and condition before God: “remember that you
were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and
strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”. Our
status was that we were separated, alienated, strangers, and without God. Paul elsewhere
uses the word alienated to describe our condition before God (Colossians 1:21), “And you, who
once were alienated and hostile in mind”. I think we can understand Paul’s context, our
condition was most perilous.

Paul pens a most beautiful verse in Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once
were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” In Ephesians 2:19, Paul reminds
us: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the
saints and members of the household of God”. The question we have to ask ourselves is how
did we make the journey from being strangers and aliens to citizens of heaven? Were we
refugees who had enough sense to have leave a desperate situation, to risk all and attempt a
perilous journey for a better place? Or maybe we were the “worthy” or “model” aliens who
would be a good fit for citizenship in heaven? Paul states that we had no sense, worthiness or
fitness whatsoever, “you were dead in the trespasses and sins”. In fact, this is how our journey
came about, from aliens without an ounce of hope, to citizens of heaven: “But God, being rich
in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our
trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us
up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus... For by grace
you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”.

This is a verse we should drink deeply from and let sink in. Christ took the perilous journey for
us and paid for our citizenship on the cross, solely by His grace. Christ brought us, who were
far off from heavenly citizenship, near to himself by his most precious blood.

As citizens of heaven, what should be our disposition to those in our midst who currently find themselves as strangers, in a state of separation and alienation? As Romans 13 states: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law... Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” With this in mind, “let us do likewise”.

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