Citizenship; May 19, 2019

Colossians 1:13-14 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Salvation changes our legal residence, our citizenship. This is something we don’t think about very much, and we should. I’m currently reading a book titled The Insurgence, by Frank Viola, that focuses on that and all it means, and it actually means a very great deal. 1st Century believers understood that when they declared, “Jesus is Lord,” they were saying, “Caesar is not my Lord, Jesus is.” By the standards of the Roman Empire, that was treason, and most people know that the penalty for treason is death. In Philippians 3:20 Paul proclaims clearly, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We don’t think about that very much. Citizenship was and is a big deal, and the whole issue is creating a lot of turmoil in the US right now. The thing is, whether we’re talking about political nation-states or spiritual dominions, as this passage is talking about, either you are a citizen or you are not; there’s no “half-citizenship.” Politically we have visas and residence permits and the like, and few countries are as generous in that area as the US, but they still aren’t the same as citizenship. That’s why it’s such a scandal when non-citizens manage to vote in elections. The same thing happens in the Church, actually. There are people who have “been in church” all their lives, yet have never committed to Jesus Christ as Lord. Without that commitment they are not citizens of His kingdom, yet they often think they are, and are treated as if they were. That makes for a multitude of problems, and such problems are evident everywhere we turn. Sadly, such people can even rise in the human hierarchy of church government, exerting an outsized influence on many people. Our “documentation” isn’t a matter of physical paperwork. Actually, relying on such paperwork is one reason so many non-citizens of God’s kingdom are included in church. It’s not at all that the Church is exclusive, trying to keep people out, it’s that citizenship is black-and-white: Jesus is Lord, or He’s not. We tend to think of citizenship in terms of rights and privileges, but it is also a matter of duties and responsibilities. Our entry into God’s kingdom is by grace through faith, but it isn’t a matter of “into bliss and out of blister,” as my grandfather described “easy-believeism” The average Christian, even genuine Christian, thinks and understands far too little about the kingdom of God.

Living as a US citizen in Japan virtually my whole life, the whole concept of citizenship has been in my awareness probably much more than it is for most people. When I feel Japanese and feel American, I understand the struggle we have as genuine Christians with the whole now/not yet aspects of the kingdom of God. The difficulty for me is in communicating that truth to the Japanese, who have a very deep sense of racial/ethnic identity that in my opinion is comparable only to the Jews. They have a great fear of becoming un-Japanese, not realizing that the requirement is exactly the same for people of any nation or race. Sadly, many of the non-Japanese Christians they see don’t live as citizens of God’s kingdom, so they don’t have a good example. Even when they do, they confuse the Christian aspects of such people as being because they aren’t Japanese, and think they could never be that way. I have run into that repeatedly. It all comes back to the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in each heart and life, so that is where I need to focus, for myself and for those in my care.

Father, this is a huge issue, and I can’t help but feel it is at least one of the keys to the salvation of the Japanese. I ask You to illuminate my heart more and more so that I may speak and act on Your truth in love, causing people to acknowledge You as holy, indeed bringing Your kingdom as Your will is done, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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