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Appreciating Our Citizenship

It is a general truth that those who acquire citizenship by choice have greater appreciation of it than those who have it by birth. That makes sense doesn’t it? When you put forth effort to gain something you understand its value more than when you obtain something without even so much effort as making a choice. So it is with God’s kingdom.

Under the Old Law citizenship was tied to birth and circumcision. Under the Law of Christ we are “grafted in” (Rom. 11:17). In fact even those who were formerly natural citizens have been made aliens and must become naturalized citizens so that we all must be “grafted in” (Rom. 11:19-24). So it stands to reason that citizens of the spiritual kingdom will (on the whole) have a greater love for their citizenship than did the citizens of the earthly kingdom. But what of those Christians who still seem to take their citizenship for granted? What is the cause of such ingratitude?

We must first consider the idea that perhaps they are not citizens. Citizenship means certain proofs will be in place. There is a foundational knowledge that goes hand in hand with becoming a citizen. Jeremiah prophesies of this and the Hebrew writer repeats that there will be a time when “they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me…” (Heb. 8:11). So if you need to be told to know the Lord, then perhaps you aren’t a citizen. Likewise, if you are unaware of basic truths such as the existence of the Holy Spirit then it will indicate that something is lacking (Acts 19:1-5). But some are citizens and fall back into ignorance forgetting what they once knew (Heb. 5:12).

So when someone actually becomes a citizen and then later fails to appreciate it, it really comes down to forgetting some great truths. They forget in whom they have believed. They did not sign on to become subjects of some imperfect monarch or even elected official. They confessed a faith in the Son of God (Matt. 16:16-18) who was and is God (Jn. 1:1) and to whom all authority has been given (Matt. 28:18). They have forgotten what wretched men they were without Christ (7:24) and have stepped away from the wedding feast to return to feasting on vomit (2 Pet. 2:22). They have forgotten that gaining citizenship was the beginning of a commitment, not an isolated event (Phil. 3:12-14). And no doubt they have forgotten a great deal more than that.

I think of some of the things people have done to gain American citizenship, risking life and limb because they are fleeing misery and see something better available. I wonder sometimes if we are half so appreciative of our heavenly citizenships as they are of their earthly ones. Or do we, like our physical predecessors forget the God who delivered us from bondage and into freedom?