Live as a Citizen of Heaven

Two verses I read recently made me really happy. You know how just reading  something lifts you up, right away? Makes you feel like you could do anything? They are both from the book of Philippians.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more…Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding…Live pure and blameless lives…be filled with the fruit of your salvation.” – Philippians 1: 5-11 (various.)

The other is from the same chapter, but verse 27: “You must live as citizens of heaven.”

Lately there is so much animosity going around between political parties. I knew I would not vote for the President, but I had my doubts about Romney as well. The future of our country is definitely uncertain, but then, how is that any different than what people said four years ago? Ten years ago? Two decades, or two hundred years, ago? It’s not! The future is uncertain – otherwise,  it wouldn’t be the future! We can make all the plans we want to. We can figure out how to fix the economy and in two years an act of God could destroy this country.

What good would our plans be then? I don’t pen this to say that we shouldn’t make plans to make our lives as a nation or an individual better. We should. That is the responsible part of life; that is Biblical. But the truth is that sometimes life hands us things that can’t be fixed in a timely manner. Meaning – on our timetable. Sometimes time is all it takes and it takes a lot of time!

So what should we do while we wait? Fret about who leads our country? Fret about our role in it? Seriously, what is your role? Is it to change the world? No! All our lives, we as Westerners have been taught that we as individuals can make a difference. Really? How? That is what I’d like to know, because I have wasted thousands of hours of my own life, if not millions, planning ways that I could make the lives of everyone around me better if I could just find the right words, or behave the right way, or be smarter or nicer or tougher or gentler. Ugh!

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?  That one little light can shape the outcome of billions of people. But it is such an utter lie, I think. The only world we can change is our own – our own individual world. There is a period of time when we are in control of our children before they are old enough to say no. To do what we don’t want them to do. And that is all. For the better part of our lives, the only control we have is over ourselves. There is nothing I can do to fix the peace problem in the Middle East. There is nothing I can do to fix the United States government or to shape the outcome of an election.

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? When Jesus came, so many Christians were pumped because they thought He was going to step up and take the place of oppressive government and make it work for everyone. But He had no desire to do that whatsoever. Why do you think that is? Because it wasn’t important? Because He didn’t care? No. It was important and He did care, but it wasn’t the point of His coming at all.

If everyone stepped out of politics, what would we have? A huge federal government existing solely for itself? Probably so. And how much more screwed up would it be than it is now?

I’m not telling people to avoid voting or debating, but I am advising people to live for eternity, not for the here and now. For example: abortion has always been a hot-button issue since Roe v. Wade. That’s not to say abortions weren’t being performed before that decision – they were. They probably took a lot less lives after the decision. The point is this: you or I cannot change the fact that until “Thy kingdom come,” people are going to want and have abortions. Debate it. Talk about how you feel. Let your opinion or experience help someone else to make a decision. But you cannot make that decision for another living soul. So all the hostility in the world will not change someone’s opinion; it will  just cause more animosity.

The world is chock-full of lost people! That is so sad to me. And there is a “tolerance gospel,” as I like to call it, that has gone a bit astray in trying to win hearts and minds for Christ. We are called to confront sin. We are called for other things as well, but we cannot forget this or wish it away because it’s hard and uncomfortable. But we cannot preach love to everyone if we hate them at the same  time. We cannot call everyone who disagrees with us ignorant or stupid or just plain wrong.

What can we do? We can do what the verses in Philippians say: Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding…Live pure and blameless lives…be filled with the fruit of your salvation. These directions aren’t about us and others – they are about ourselves. The world is full of hurting, lost, and mistaken people – for sure. And we are not supposed to silently watch – passively watch – people in those conditions go by in front of us. But there is a balance here that is totally out of whack.

We, as Christians, are called to be disciples of men. That is a hard pill for me to swallow. I do not at all feel comfortable discussing a stranger’s beliefs in God with him or her. But we can all be examples. We cannot change the world. We can only change ours. So whatever you are called to do, do it!! Do it with grace, mercy, honor, integrity, and excellence.


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