Monday, January 29, 2007

Life as a Citizen of Heaven

"'No one can serve two masters,' declared Jesus to his disciples (Mt 6.24). However, Christians have spent the greater portion of the past two milleniums apparently trying to prove Jesus wrong. We have told ourselves that we can indeed have both -- the things of God and the things of this world. Many of us live our lives no differently than do conservative non-Christians, except for the fact that we attend church regularly each wekk. We watch the same entertainment. We share the same concerns about the problems of this world. And we are frequently just as involved in the world's commercial and materialistic pursuits. Often, our being 'not of this world' exists in theory more than in practice.

But the church was not originally like that. The first Christians lived under a completely different set of principles and values than the rest of mankind. They rejected the world's entertainment, honors and riches. They were already citizens of another kingdom and they listened to the voice of a different Master. This was as true of the second century church as it was of the first.

The work of an unknown author, written about 130 A.D., describes Christians to the Romans as follows: 'They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners...They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all...They are put to death...They are poor, yet they make many rich. They possess few things, yet they abound in all. They are dishonored, yet in their very dishonor are glorified and those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred'" (David W. Bercot. Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up. Tyler, Tx.: Scroll Publishing, 1999, p. 16-17).