Our nation just celebrated her 52th national day on 9th of August and we should be proud and grateful for what our nation has achieved thus far. However as Christians what should be our perspective on citizenship and what is the connection between our earthly and heavenly citizenship?
From Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees in Mark 12:13-17 regarding taxes, it is clear that he based the idea of citizenship on our relationship to the Sovereign Creator of heaven and earth. When Jesus remarks, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's,” he is not saying that what belongs to Caesar does not belong to God. Instead, we should interpret Jesus’ words to mean that as citizens we owe honor and taxes to government (Caesar), but we do so as part of our total obligation to God. In short, Caesar deserves taxes, but God deserves everything, including our service to Caesar.
We should also recognize another important principle: that Christians hold a citizenship in two realms. This is where the connection between earthly and heavenly citizenship comes in. Just as a child born in an earthly family can, at the same time, belong to the family of God, so the same can be said about our earthly citizenship. Fulfilling our civic responsibility is a duty owed to God as well as to our fellow Singaporeans. We who acknowledge God’s rule must learn to do our civic duties as to the Lord. In a complex society like ours, one of the most important ways to live as a citizen in God’s kingdom is to pursue justice for all our neighbors in our community.
Singaporeans can indeed be proud of our country and government. But we must not forget that we are also citizens of another realm. Paul in his letter to the Philippians reminded them of this: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ … But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:27; 3:20). Paul’s appeal to the privilege of citizenship was particularly poignant to the Philippians because as Roman citizens they prided themselves on their elite status. Against this preoccupation with the coveted Roman citizenship, Paul interposes a counter-citizenship whose seat of power is not in Rome but in heaven; whose guarantor is not Nero but Christ. Philippi may be a colony under Lord Caesar, but the church at Philippi is a personal people of King Jesus, the Lord above all (Phil. 2:9-11).
While we celebrated our National day with joy and pride, let us not fail to live up to our higher and greater calling as citizens of heaven. In essence, Paul is saying, “You are citizens of heaven; therefore live accordingly, in a manner that is worthy of your King.” Are you living worthily of your King - our Lord Jesus Christ?
Rev. Mark Tay