But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Can you imagine living two realities at once?
Perhaps it is two vocational realities – you are a brother or sister and at the same time you are someone’s child. You may not think of them as two realities on a day-to-day basis, but you probably notice that you relate differently as a sibling than you do as someone’s child.
Or maybe the difference is starker. A person who is a recovering alcoholic may feel the contrast of realities more keenly. One reality is that of being an alcoholic. Being in recovery doesn’t change that. Yet the reality of being an alcoholic is no longer the only reality. You are also in recovery. Both of those realities are true.
Paul is talking about something similar. We live in this world and are subject to its conditions – the joys and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments, the achievements and failures, the possibilities and limitations, of life in this world. Paul’s concern with both the legalists – insisting that we are justified by law rather than grace – and the libertines – insisting that we need care for nothing other than our own wants – witness to the reality of living in this world and contending with its limitations.
But that is not the only reality. We are also, Paul confesses, caught up in a second reality, the heavenly reality granted us by faith in Christ. This is what Paul means by calling us citizens of heaven. We are not only people of this world, we are also people of heaven. We are, that is, God’s beloved children, destined for life eternal with God, in God, and through God. And while that does not change the reality of living in this world, it also reminds us that the limitations we presently experience are neither the only reality nor the last word on our condition.
The day will come, Paul promises, when the Lord of heaven will return and transform us, setting us free from the limitations of this life and drawing us unto himself fully and completely.
For now, we enjoy – and struggle with – dual citizenship, but remembering our home and final destination can help us contend with the present struggles.
Prayer: Dear God, remind us that we are you beloved children and that nothing can change that, and allow that promise to strengthen our resolve to live like children of the light and citizens of heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.