Ramon Arias | July 8, 2013
Why would you want to talk about your citizenship? Isn’t a citizen a person who is born into a nation or is naturalized? The first question demands another question: Do you have an excellent understanding about your citizenship? Are all citizens treated with the same dignity, rights and privileges according to the rule of law? This is where the real problem begins since the rule of law must be defined, and men change the rule of law according to their times and wherever the culture trend is going. People follow these trends regardless if history reveals it is the wrong path. Whatever the law is today it may change tomorrow. Something that is called good today may be called bad tomorrow.
Consider the unrest that is taking place in Egypt; all Egyptians are citizens of the same country but not all are treated the same. Christians are 10% of the population, and 90% are Muslims. The Muslims are fragmented into different denominations. For the first time in their history, the Egyptians had democratic elections. The winners were the minority Muslim Brotherhood who at one time were persecuted by their government. They immediately implemented a fundamental transformation with an Islamic constitution. Everybody happy? Not so much because the majority of Muslims and Christians immediately saw the erosion of their citizenship rights. The rest is history, you already know what happened. Democracy cannot work because it’s all about the rule of the majority and if the majority is wrong so goes the rest of the nation. Egyptians have suffered for thousands of years. So much for citizenship! The same can be said about Syria, the rest of the Middle East and the world for that matter.
What about citizens in this United States of America, do they understand what citizenship is all about? People are realizing more and more that the meaning of citizenship is being lost along with rights and liberties. This is not a surprise if we understand the thousands of years of human history with an open mind, including what has happened in this nation before and after it became the first experiment of government without a monarchy. Has it worked? What do you think?
When the patriots of 1776 declared their independence from the crown of England, they were in the minority. There were 3 million people living in the colonies and the Declaration of Independence fragmented them into different groups. There were the patriots, loyalists and neutrals. Once it became a nation, they were still fragmented; nevertheless they defined citizenship except for one class within the population, the blacks. Not a great start for the unity of the nation when some of the colonies wanted to free the slaves and others refusing to be part of the union if it went into effect. Whatever happened to the declaration that all men are created equal? Compromise has never been good; it’s a constant loser’s paradise and always ends in disaster.
The War Between the States, (1861-1865), is a good example of individuals not understanding how to solve national problems. Did the plight of the black community improve? Hardly. Nonetheless, 600,000 to 700,000 lives were lost during that war. The federal government grew stronger; more centralized and, for the most part, the Constitution became irrelevant. Reminding us once again that a citizen can only have the worth given by those in power, be it civil government, religious government or any other human materialistic government.
Is a citizenship to be despised? Is he or she worthless or irrelevant? Unquestionably, no citizenship will be valid if we fail to understand that all men are created equal according to the revealed truth of God found in the Bible. Our guideline for true citizenship is the moral law of God, and men cannot replace it or alter it without severe social consequences.
Let us consider the apostle Paul (Acts 9). Prior to his encounter with Christ, Paul furiously persecuted the Christians. It made no difference to him if they were Jewish citizens of Israel, they were disciples of Jesus Christ and that was enough for him and the Jewish leadership to persecute, incarcerate and kill them.
Once Paul understood by personal experience that Jesus Christ was alive and well and the ruler over all creation and nations, he became a vigorous disciple of His proclaiming the truth of the Kingdom of God here on earth. When the time came for the Jews to take hold of Paul to punish and kill him, the Roman military intervened and was going to lash him, Paul, however, let the centurion know he was a Roman citizen, and he could not be condemned without a trail (Acts 22: 24-29). As time progressed, Paul was asked if he wanted to be tried in Jerusalem, he declined and appealed to Caesar, so to Caesar he was sent (Acts 25:9-12). Nero was the Caesar of Rome and no sympathizer of the disciples of Christ, who were growing in numbers. Without a trial, he sentenced Paul to death, and Paul was decapitated.
Paul was one of the greatest disciples of Jesus Christ early in the 1st Century A.D. He used his Roman citizenship to his advantage. Even though he was a Jew, he wanted to defeat the Jewish leadership and prove them wrong. His appealing to the Roman Emperor was a move not out of fear but wisdom. He knew his citizenship was in heaven. Paul knew his true heavenly citizenship demands that we be instruments of social-cultural change under God’s unchangeable government on earth as it is in heaven.
In one of his letters to the Philippians, Paul affirmed: “But our citizenship is in heaven…” (3:20). Once this reality is understood, true followers of Christ know they are only pilgrims in this world and must do everything to bring about accurate changes in society according to the biblical worldview in all areas of human development, not only in this United States of America but also, in every nation as God leads us to be engaged.
Our exceptionalism comes from being citizens of heaven. We are to manifest its fruit on earth no less than what Jesus, and all His followers have done in the past and continue to do in the present and will do in the future. Let us get our citizenship in the right perspective and be excited to be part of such a great honor!
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).