Summary: Citizenship is not earned. It is granted upon birth. Therefore, citizens aren’t religious people. They’re legal people. But God’s Kingdom citizens are even more than that. They’re relatives living in a foreign land. This unlocks a completely different way of thinking about who we are.
I’ve been outside the United States a handful of times in my life. Each time I left, the same thing happened. I stayed a citizen of the United States upon arrival in the foreign country and upon my return home. Now how hard did I try to become a citizen of the United States? What did I do to earn it?
Nothing, of course.
And of course, the same concept applies to God’s Kingdom government. I believe most Christians understand that. But from my observation, I don’t believe most Christians I’ve been around have truly internalized the concept of how they belong to God’s Kingdom as a citizen.
A citizen is not religious
When you think about it, being a citizen of God’s Kingdom is really the opposite of being a member of a religion. A member of a religion makes human-powered attempts to connect with their god or gods through specific actions they believe earns them favor and rewards.
A citizen of a kingdom has all the king’s favor and rewards as soon as they are born into it. Being born into the kingdom is the qualification and the guarantee. The efforts they put forth aren’t to gain the rewards or favor like a member of a religion, they’re to learn how to better allocate the rewards and favor that are fully available into their life.
Check out how John expresses this in his gospel…
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)
As soon as a child is born, they have all the rights of the family bestowed upon them.
So citizens of a kingdom aren’t religious people. They’re legal people. They have guaranteed access to the rights, privileges and resources their nation offers simply because they were born a citizen. Whether they exercise their rights and privileges and take full advantage of the nation’s resources is another subject altogether.
Kingdom citizens are different
But in God’s Kingdom, the citizens are a special breed.
Here are two defining characteristics that separate the citizens of His Kingdom from what we understand citizenship to be for nations of the earth…
- In the natural world, citizens are not blood-related to their government. But the citizens of the Kingdom are also the King’s relatives! In fact, they are not only relatives, but they’re kings themselves!
- In the natural world, you’re always a citizen of the nation you’re born into. But once a person is born into God’s Kingdom, they change countries. They surrender their natural citizenship in the world to become naturalized citizens of the Kingdom of God. Yes, of course the natural world still recognizes their natural citizenship. But Christians “regard no one (including themselves) from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)
Citizens in a foreign land
Wherever a citizen goes outside of their nation, they remain a citizen with access to all the rights, privileges and benefits their nation gives them. That’s why we see governments intervene in any way they can when they learn their citizens are in trouble in foreign countries.
In the same way, citizens of God’s Kingdom on earth reside as ambassadors in a foreign land. We’re not in heaven, but we are citizens of heaven. Just like a passport, Christ in us is our identification of where we’re from.
Here’s how this concept is expressed in the book of Philippians…
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (3:21-22)
We’re in a foreign land, but we await our Secretary of State to come and take us to our homeland.
The root of most of our problems simply go back to recognizing and believing who we are. When we recognize who we are as citizens of God’s Kingdom, our spiritual reality can be transferred into our mentality. When a Christian does this, they start to think differently. They are “transformed by the renewing of their mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Understanding God’s Kingdom
How does understanding citizenship make a Christian start to think differently? I’ll end this post with 3 major examples that show how Kingdom citizens think…
When you understand Kingdom citizenship, you naturally seek the good of the Kingdom first.
Those that do this then allow all worldly matters to fall into place subsequently (Matthew 6:25-34). They do this because they’re familiar with the supply of their Kingdom and understand that it’s abundant. They carry a confidence and a boldness that their government will supply all their needs.
Evidence of this lies in the decisions they make. Do they make decisions based on what is best for themselves or what is best for building the Kingdom?
When you understand Kingdom citizenship, you have no problem dismissing worldly philosophies and laws.
Worldly societies ebb and flow in worldly philosophies and the laws they make as a result. 150 years ago in my country, being a homosexual was about as evil as you could be; while owning slaves was viewed as a God-given right. Today it’s just the opposite. If you even suggest that homosexuality may not be how God designed humans to use the human body they’ve been loaned, you’re considered intolerant and a “hater.” Owning slaves is now evil.
Now I’m not stating any specific opinions about either of these issues here. My point is that Kingdom citizens understand the laws, principles and precepts of their Kingdom and they are not easily swayed back and forth by whatever’s popular in the culture in the days which they live. They understand how God designed life to work and stand on the truth of His Kingdom. They respect the laws of the worldly nation in which they are subject, but only as far as those laws don’t violate the laws of their home country.
When you understand Kingdom citizenship, you don’t view yourself as having more or less access to the Kingdom (and the King) than any other citizen.
Every citizen is a king. Every king is a relative of the King. God does not show favoritism. Just like every citizen of your country has the rights to drive on its roads, every citizen of the Kingdom has the same rights and access to its resources.
Again, some citizens lay hold of the rights and use the resources more effectively than others. But everyone has the same access and are responsible to take advantage of it for the good of the Kingdom.
The rest of the posts in the Understanding God’s Government series are here.