Christians are citizens in the kingdoms–or republics–of this world. Christians are also citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. What is the relationship between these kingdoms? The Sunday before last, we had an excellent sermon on the parallels, differences, conflicts, and relationships between these two kinds of citizenship.
You should read the entire sermon. It’s by Rev. Ned Moerbe. (Okay, he’s also my son-in-law.) One can read a sermon in far less time that it takes to hear it. So here it is: Philippians 1:12-14; Pentecost 16, 2017 (20A) – Trinity Lutheran Church.
Here is a sample:
The confidence of knowing that God has provided for our salvation enables us to live out our citizenship in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We have citizenship in an earthly nation and in a heavenly Kingdom. Sadly, many get things backwards and think that our heavenly citizenship is meant to serve our earthly citizenship. They see religion as a means to create a better world. And very few oppose this kind of religion. Very few will criticize you for being Christian if being Christian is something you do in private so that you are a better neighbor in public. But that is the kind of Christianity that many pursue. You hear it in those who say we need to convert people so that our nation can get back on track. When does Paul or any other apostle ever say, “We need to preach the Gospel in the Roman empire so that the empire can get back on track?” That is absurd, and the suggestion that Paul or Peter or Jesus ever set out to fix the abuses of the Roman empire is laughable. Paul doesn’t see the faith as a means to improve the empire, but he does see the empire as a tool for proclaiming the faith.Paul will use his Roman citizenship and boldly lay claim to his rights if that means being able to preach the Gospel. He never tells the Philippians to lay aside their Roman citizenship, but he does tell them to put their heavenly citizenship first. And so it must be for us also. We are not to fix our country by our faith, but we are to use the benefits we have as citizen of this nation to serve Christ’s kingdom. We have the right to free speech, and Christ would have us use it to tell others what He has done. We have the right to gather together, and we do so decently and in good order in the eyes of the world so that the Gospel is not brought into disrepute, but that what we say and do here might be a witness to what Christ has done for us.
Photo of the Colosseum in Rome by Marek69 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons