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“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” (Philippians 3:20).

For most of us, there has been a time when we have profited from the application of the motto, “Membership Has Its Privileges.” Once the slogan of the American Express Card, the implication was that for the payment of an annual fee to have an Amex card, there were benefits to be had. This has been extended over the years through the offering of ‘members only’ store cards to online ordering memberships where those who pay a periodic fee will receive free expedited shipping and special access to other online services. The concept of somehow being part of an inner circle is not a new one. It certainly has been promoted over time by many fraternal organizations as well as limited memberships to organizations such as country clubs and professional associations. In doing so, the sense of community they create is sometimes criticized as being carried out at the expense of excluding or discriminating against others who might otherwise want to belong.

Following the American Civil War, the question of how to create a sense of belonging for those who had been brought here as slaves became part of the struggle of healing during the Reconstruction Period. Ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution on July 28, 1868 attempted to resolve questions of African-American citizenship by stating that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States and of the state in which they reside.” The amendment then reaffirmed the privileges and rights of all citizens and granted these citizens “equal protection of the laws.” In the decades which followed, the equal protection clause was cited by many African American activists who argued that evolving racial segregation denied them what they believed the law had intended. Indeed, there have been many Supreme Court cases challenging the concept of due process and equal protection. In addition – the ‘birthright citizenship’ of the amendment has raised modern-day controversy regarding the assumed citizenship of those whose parents have immigrated into the country illegally.

It’s interesting to reflect on the reference that citizenship plays in our faith journey. Recalling the faith shown by Abraham and Sarah, the Apostle Paul spoke these words: “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16). In some ways, their journey is also ours. We spend most of our life trying to belong, seeking inclusion, and at times determined to gain some sort of membership for our own earthly satisfaction. But as we give our life to Christ, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2:19).

It is important to realize that being a good citizen is complemented by being a good Christian. Our neighborhood, our town, and our state are enhanced when our citizenry membership is exemplified with a demonstration of our Christian values. After all, the very same ingredients that make a good Christian should also make a good citizen. You do not have to look far to see obvious examples of contempt and hate for our government officials, deteriorating civic pride, and outright disrespect for the symbols of our nation. As we model God’s character here on earth, we are honoring Him. Consider today how your words and actions convey where your citizenship lies. Enjoy the assurance of your eternal citizenship and be grateful for what Jesus did to secure your place, as He paid the cost for you and all who love Him.

REFLECTION: Do you have a membership in any organization that excludes others? Are you able to justify this exclusion? What happens to our relationships with God and community when we refuse or fail to participate in support of good government? How can you remain faithful to God and show your respect to those in authority, even if there are times you do not like them or disagree with their decisions?


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