by David C. Grabbe
CGG Weekly, September 5, 2014
"To forsake Christ for the world, is to leave a treasure for a trifle, eternity for a moment, reality for a shadow."
In Part One, we saw from Paul's letter to the Colossians that those whom God has delivered from the power of darkness have been conveyed into His Son's Kingdom, and are now citizens of that heavenly realm (Colossians 1:13). The congregation at Colossae was being troubled by people who likely once had spiritual understanding but who had become enemies of Christ, having chosen to focus on the physical and temporal rather than the benefits and obligations of their heavenly citizenship.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
We will focus—we will expend our time and effort—on what we value. One focus—one "master," as it were—will always take precedence, and Christ is telling us that the heavenly Master is immeasurably more significant.
This same principle applies to citizenship. Among the governments of men, it is possible for a man to be a legal citizen of more than one nation. Similarly, each one of us has an earthly citizenship in addition to a heavenly citizenship. But what Jesus taught regarding treasures and mammon also applies to our citizenships: One of them must take precedence over the other, and He urges—commands—us to seek His Kingdom above all else.
This does not mean that He calls on us to renounce our earthly citizenship. In Acts 22:22-29, when Paul was about to be scourged, he boldly announced the fact that he was a Roman citizen. He made lawful use of a benefit of that earthly citizenship, that it was illegal to scourge a Roman. Yet, Paul's life and teachings plainly display that his heavenly citizenship was the master. He suffered and even went to his death for the sake of that homeland, just as most of Christ's apostles did.
In his letter to the Gentile Galatians, Paul reassures them that physical distinctions do not carry over into Christ:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28; see Colossians 3:9-11)
Physical distinctions such as ethnicity and earthly citizenship are not factors within the heavenly homeland. To amplify Paul's contrasts here, in the heavenly Kingdom—into which we have already been spiritually conveyed—there is neither American, nor Canadian. There is neither French, nor Briton. There is neither South African, nor Zambian. Neither Trinidadian, nor Filipino. Neither Australian nor Namibian. Neither German nor Dutch. We "are all one in Christ Jesus," and His Kingdom supersedes all of the aspects of the lands of our birth or residence.
The fact is that we who are citizens of heaven are merely pilgrims and sojourners here on earth, passing through on our way to the Kingdom of God. We are observers rather than participants, learning and practicing God's way of life but not yet tasked with righting the wrongs of the world.
We do not wage physical warfare on behalf of our earthly homelands. Right now, our warfare is only spiritual (see Ephesians 6:12). When our King descends to establish His Kingdom on earth, then we will fight (see Revelation 19:14; Zechariah 14:5; John 18:36). We likewise do not get involved in politics, because even though the governments are allowed by God and even authorized by Him (see Romans 13:1), they are all in fundamental opposition to Him. It would be profoundly contradictory for citizens of heaven to become involved in the politics of governments that our King will overthrow when He returns!
We serve either the Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdoms of men. We cannot serve two masters.