03 Jul Where we belong
This is a weekend that marks the halfway point of our summer and also a major turning point in our nation’s history.
Our celebrations may vary across families and regions. And yet, even in the diversity of this weekend, a unity built on our shared identity prevails. It’s as if the entire nation pauses to look at one another and say, “Yes, we are all Americans.”
It’s no secret that there have been times over this past year where our differences have felt too monumental. Issues of race and rights have monopolized our attention. Our Facebook news feeds are continuously overflowing with the latest debate or issue. And perhaps there comes a time when the priorities and pressures of our cultures create a permanent divide. Regardless, as believers and citizens of heaven, we must consider our role in the tumultuous culture surrounding us.
Know our identity
A people of God in exile- it’s not a new idea. Rather, it’s a theme that weaves its way through the Old and New Testaments. Today, it’s easy to identify ourselves in so many ways. Social media has allowed us the capacity to create an image and identity to portray to the watching world. We unite with others over causes, hobbies, and children. On a weekend like this one, we unite across our continent (and around the world) as American citizens.
Yet, Paul is quick to remind us in Philippians that we are actually “citizens of heaven”. In a cultural context where Roman citizenship was something to be prized, he was adamant in pointing out an overarching identity. This identity as the people of God stretches backward and forward over history and over the boundaries of nations and continents. Because of who we are in Christ, we are united with brothers and sisters in China and in Europe and in South America. Our lives are irreversibly connected to the millions who have lived before us as Christians; the future generations will carry on where we leave off.
In the midst of the cultural confusion, extreme activism, and everyday challenges of our lives, we must be continually reminding ourselves of our identity. When we are rooted in Christ and focused on His work in the world, we gain clarity for ourselves and for both the small and large decisions of life.
Live for the City
As the Israelites lived in exile in Babylon, the command given to them was probably different than what they expected, “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
How are we promoting the peace and prosperity of our city, our state, and our nation? Inundated by the anthems of individualism, we far too often fail to view our actions as a ripple that moves outward. Instead of always considering what’s best for us and our families, the people of God must concern themselves with the bigger picture. We must live in our city and for our city.
This is the businessman who makes economic choices that can benefit a forgotten minority. This is the family who chooses to live and engage in a neighborhood that’s on the wrong side of town. It’s the young professional who rides the bus to work because of the people she may meet. It’s the college student who plays on the city rec team instead of doing intramural sports. It’s the mother who volunteers at the women’s shelter each week.
In doing all this, we become connected to those around us. We display the redemptive and restorative work of the Gospel in the practical and day-to-day.
Choose to Engage
The people of God must be marked as those who are willing to engage the hard issues of our culture. When we know our identity and choose to live for the city, we will find ourselves in relationships and conversations that give us the opportunity to speak truth. We can leave these relationships at surface-level, or we can begin to share the reason for the hope we have.
When we can speak well into the issues facing our nation and world, we carry the light of Christ to a world that’s constantly spinning on news and trends that come at us faster than ever before. And yet, we know the end of the story. Our own questions and fears can be put to death under the lordship of Christ so that we can live and speak with a confident hope.
May the celebration of our American independence this weekend remind us of the freedom we have in Christ. Let us remember the overarching identity of the people of God. And may we engage the world around us as exiles in wait of our home.