The diversity of the church in Philippi really jumped out at me this morning. The first church members there were a wealthy woman, her friends/ employees, a slave girl, and a Roman prison guard and his whole family. They didn’t have much in common socially or economically, but the bond of brother-sisterhood through the blood of Jesus was enough to establish a solid church. Paul wrote the encouraging and powerful book of Philippians to these folks.
The second thing that really jumped out at me today was how Paul appealed to and leveraged to his Roman citizenship in Philippi. “But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37). This was Roman colony that would have had all the respect for Roman law and citizenship as Rome itself so his appeal wasn’t ungrounded.
We live in a moment in American history where many Christians are wondering how they need to posture themselves. Some note that we are citizens of Heaven and to them it indicates that they don’t need to worry so much about the affairs/ politics of this world. Others indicate that God has given us an American citizenship and we are to press that to it’s fullest advantage including voting, campaigning for candidates/ issues, signing petitions, boycotting, etc. Some wondered does citizenship in Heaven mean I forfeit the rights of citizenship of my country?
These concepts were never intended to be held in tension. Paul writes the Philippians, (People who understood all the rights and privileges’ of Roman citizenship and who were present when he first made an appeal to his own Roman citizenship ) and uses the concept of citizenship as a metaphor to teach about the rights and privileges of those who are in Christ. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
It was precisely because Paul was a Roman citizen who appealed to his rights as a Roman citizen that the concept of being citizens of heaven could be clearly understood. This is one of those both and concepts. Christians should rejoice that they are citizens in the kingdom of heaven, but we should also use whatever rights and privilege’s that are afforded to us as citizens of our country to promote and further the gospel. In America this means using our rights such as free speech to present the gospel, advocate for the powerless, address corruption, and let our voices be heard. However, there is a way to do all of those things with tact and compassion for those who see things differently than us. I’ve put a few links in the resources today that include organizations/ individuals that write from a biblical/ Christian perspective on political/ theological issues of interest to Christians. I’ll also link to a few good books on Politics/Christianity that I have read and found helpful.
Father, We thank you for the diversity of individuals you have called together in the church. we rejoice that more than anything we have the saving work of Christ in common. We pray that you would use us to be salt and light into our communities to reach others with the gospel. We thank you for our Nation and the freedoms we have. Give us wisdom on how to use our rights and privileges to spread the gospel. These things we ask in Jesus Name, Amen.
- Last Year’s Post
- World Magazine
- Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
- The Briefing – Albert Mohler
- The Colson Center
Politics According to the Bible* – Wayne Grudem Book
Why Politics Needs Religion* – Brandon Sweetman Book