Citizens of Heaven

A couple of weeks ago, Aaron began our series in the book of Colossians and asked us this question: How can we know if we are growing in maturity in Jesus? One way that we know is that we live with an ever-increasing awareness that we are dual citizens – citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven while at the same time (for the moment) living here on the earth.

We have a friend who was born in Croatia, raised in Canada and then moved to America for college.  His wife says he’s a “Cro-Can-Am,” as he is a citizen of all 3 countries.  His wife and son are also dual citizens of America and Canada. This summer, I laughed to see pictures from their trip from North Carolina to Toronto, where he watched Croatia play in the World Cup. I saw all three citizenship’s in one person at one time on display.

As one who has lived in the same town my entire life, I think I may have citizenship envy. However, the subject of their dual/tri-citizenship doesn’t come up very often in conversation.  I know it is an important part of their identity, but as far as I know, my friends don’t get up in the morning and pledge to all three flags before starting their day or hum all 3 anthems as they go out the door.

I thought of my friends when I considered Aaron’s statement that as Christians, we are to always be increasingly aware of our dual citizenship. I thought about how many of us start our day firmly planting our feet into the earth of the Earth with little to no thought that we are primarily citizens of Heaven.

How thin is the veil between what is seen and what is unseen, yet sometimes we move about as if God’s kingdom is a million miles away — that the King is a million miles away. But the longer we walk with the Lord, the more we long for him. The more we long for him, the more our awareness of this dual citizenship grows (spiritual maturity).

One such place that we catch a glimpse of our true home is when God’s people gather in one room on Sunday mornings and the air practically shimmers between the “already and not yet.”

During the last several minutes of this week’s service, I was so moved under the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I wondered how I would ever recover. As I listened to Aaron carefully pull apart the words of God describing his Son as the Image of God and the Sustainer of all, and to hundreds of voices singing about the beautiful name of Jesus, I felt my citizenship of Heaven so keenly it hurt.

Then, in a final drum roll and cymbal crash, in a final prayer and send off, it was done. My heart knew what it needed, there was work to be done within me. I wanted to leap into days of solitude, praise, repentance, conviction and reflection. I knew with all my heart in that moment that I was united with Christ, part of his Church, living in the unseen… yet suddenly, in less than 30 seconds, my mouth was chatting about local eateries, laughing about something my friend said, rounding up my family.

In hindsight, swinging from one to the other should have felt more jarring.  But it comes with our dual citizenship. We feel deeply moved under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, one moment and laugh/make lunch plans/etc.. etc. the very next moment while in the same space.

This is what we do. It is how we drive to the grocery store, sit behind desks, change diapers, pay bills and do homework as citizens of Heaven living on the earth. The two seem so at odds, yet it is how the Lord has called us to live for him and know him and love him —while living on the earth.

Let’s be practical. My Sunday hit its spiritual crescendo at about 12:05 pm. Within an hour I was at Costco, within 4 hours I was with my family celebrating my mom’s birthday. You know, weekend-y things. But the Holy Spirit had stirred up my soul earlier in the day (He had spiritual work to do in me, remember?) and there was a choice to be made. I could let that stirred up soul conviction wash away in the busyness of my week, stack it in with last week’s homework folder and coupons that I won’t ever use, or I could choose to circle back with intention.

It’s a choice that we make 100 times a day. We often put our spiritual ID away in favor of our earthly one. Brothers and sisters, this should not be! It takes intention to stop and check where we have planted our feet, to lift our eyes to where Jesus is seated on his throne and take action as citizens of heaven.

How much could we grow in maturity if we actively made the choice to examine our hearts instead of disregarding the conviction of the Holy Spirit? How much would we grow in maturity as the Church if we took action and prayed for (or with!) that person who just came to mind, or the one we sat next to on Sunday morning, or our pastors and drummers and childcare workers and people who seem to have it all together, and our widows and elders and overwhelmed moms and frazzled dads and lonely people and those who are hurting.

This is our privilege as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Through the spilled blood of Jesus, we have full access to the King. Let us not shirk our blood-bought rights as children of God to approach the throne of our King boldly and bring our requests to him in prayer.

As Andrew Peterson wrote, “There is a city that we long for that feels so far away. We will be together in the New Jerusalem one day… Maybe next year.”

Let us NOT forget this truth, it may be next year, or it may be tomorrow. Until then, may we live here with our hearts fixed there, citizens of a land we cannot see with our earthly eyes, growing together as the bride of Christ, citizens of Heaven living on the earth, for the moment.