People in a land not their own.
That’s the way the Bible describes God’s people. That’s the way Jesus describes His followers.
If you are a Christian, that is you, a stranger, a pilgrim, someone in a land that is not your own. We are His people, citizens of his Kingdom in broken and fallen world.
Paul makes evident to the Philippians that their citizenship is not earthly (3:20) but heavenly. What may not be obvious to modern readers is just what a big deal this was. Being a Philippian was a big deal. It was a citizenship with a rich history and one that was highly valued. It not only found meaning in its past but also its present – being a Philippian made one a full citizen of Rome. That was a citizenship with meaning and value. That was a citizenship envied by many and prized by those who held it. So when Paul points them to another citizenship and separates them from their highly valued citizenship as both Philippians and Romans, it is no small matter. This is not your home, Paul is reminding believers.
Paul’s vision of a greater Kingdom, the Kingdom of God is in complete keeping with the meta-narrative of the Bible. The Bible is more than individual books and letters. The books and letters of the Bible together tell the story of history – past, present and future. It tells the story of creation, a time before sin entered the world and all was good. We see early in the story the account of the fall. Adam takes the forbidden fruit from Eve and eats. Sin enters the world, and everything is changed. God promises to fix the brokenness brought on by sin with a coming Redeemer. He would come to right wrongs, to forgive sin, and yes fix all that is broken. Redemption is promised throughout the Old Testament and the promised redeemer is revealed in the gospels, Jesus. Jesus is the promised redeemer. His life, death and resurrection provide for our forgiveness of sin and our eventual restoration. One day Jesus will return as he promised to fully and finally judge his enemies and establish his Kingdom, a Kingdom without end where there will be no suffering, no sin, no death, no injustice, where every previous wrong is righted, and everything broken is fixed. Jesus will, in His Kingdom, restore all things as God intended. Our broken story ends with this Kingdom, His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is our home. That is where our citizenship lies. That is where our allegiance lies. Paul was not so subtly reminding the Philippians that this citizenship was the one that should guide their lives.
The same is true for us.
We are people who live in a kingdom that is not our own. We are indeed sojourners here.
Together, believers, the church, we represent the Kingdom that is yet to be fully fulfilled. We are His Kingdom present, living by His Kingdom rules, as He is our King. We live, here and now as the Kingdom present looking expectantly for our King to return to fully and finally establish the Kingdom.
As we await His coming our call is to be about the work of the King. We are His ambassadors, Paul says in II Corinthians 5:18-21, given the ministry of seeing others reconciled to God through faith in Christ. This is our Kingdom work. We plead, he says, with those who are distant from God, “be reconciled to Him in Christ.
These are our clear calls – as this is not our kingdom, live as citizens of His Kingdom present, awaiting the Kings return. Follow the rules or the Kingdom living as a good citizens. More than citizens, as His people, we are also His ambassadors representing Him and carrying out His mission of reconciliation – seeing others forgiven of sin and reconciled to God.
Here’s what this all means.
As Christians we are not responsible for converting others to our political party.
We have not been tasked with saving the world from __________________ (Republicans or Democrats). We are not political party ambassadors nor are we ambassadors for particular politicians. He hasn’t called us to that. Neither has He called us to point out the strengths or weaknesses of our current, past or potential future leaders.
He doesn’t need you or me to save this state, country or our world from political tyranny.
The truth is, He’s got it. The prophet Daniel wrote, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings…” (Daniel 2:20-21). David, the psalmist wrote, that “… kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28) And while there are many more similar descriptions of God’s reign and rule over the nations, I’ll add just one more, Job 12:23, “He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.”
Our God is in the heavens, he does what he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
Why do we get so angry about politics?
What causes us to lash out so viciously at anyone who has a differing view from ours?
Why do we feel like we must point out the flaws and failings of other views while ignoring our own?
We demonize others. We marginalize those who don’t see things the way we do. We belittle. We threaten. We bully. We yell and shout. We even resort to violence, justified of course because of what “they” did.
I would expect no less really, from this kingdom, from those who do not love and follow Jesus.
But from those who say they love and follow Jesus, who call themselves Christians, the expectations must be much, much greater.
You are fighting the wrong fight.
You are fighting for a kingdom that is not and will not be yours.
You are a sojourner here.
You are called to peace - peace with other brothers and sisters, though they may see things differently than you and peace with those who are not of faith. You are called to love one another so greatly and so differently that the world takes notice. You are to love even your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you. You are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – not only with those who agree with you, but also with those who disagree.
And if we are to fight, we fight for faith.
We fight to believe who God is and what he has done for us. We fight to believe that he is King. We fight to believe that he has not lost control and is not the slightest bit surprised by our elections. We fight to believe that no matter who wins, we are his and he is working all things together for good for those who love him (Rom 8:28ff). We fight to believe that he has not left us, has not forsaken us and that he loves us as his children. We fight to believe that the big story, the story of the Bible, creation/fall/redemption/restoration is indeed the story we find ourselves in and that story ends with his victory in Christ. That story ends with no more suffering, no more murder, no more injustice, no more tears.
We fight to believe the gospel – the good news of Jesus. We fight to believe that he is the one who will fix this brokenness, not us.
We fight for our own faith and for the faith of other believers. We fight as his ambassadors for the faith of those who don’t yet believe. But we don’t fight for this small kingdom. It isn’t ours.
The truth is, we fight for the wrong kingdom because we don’t believe.
We don’t believe that God is who he says he is.
We don’t believe that God has got this, he’s not surprised.
We don’t believe that he knows what’s best and he can bring it about.
We don’t believe that he is working all things together for good.
Stop fighting in fear.
Vote your conscience then rest with confidence, not in people, politicians or systems.
Rest with confidence in the promises of God.
Rest with confidence that your God is in the heavens and he does as he pleases.
He’s got this.
And He’s got you.
He doesn’t need you to sway the election or convince the world that your position is right.
He doesn’t need you to save the world, Jesus will take care of that.
So you are free to not be angry.
You are free from worry and anxiety.
You are free to love even the people who disagree with you.
You are free from fear.
You are free to live as his.