Pastor's Blog

A Question of Citizenship

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon of late. While citizenship, immigration and national borders are being hotly contested and defended, there is a concurrent,  growing interest -- at least in more affluent countries -- in our personal ethnic, racial and geographical heritage. Due to the availability of low cost in-home DNA testing, we can now receive a kit in the mail, use the included Q-tip type instrument to swab our cheek for a saliva sample, mail said instrument back to the company, and within a short time receive quite extensive results as to where we came from with percentages of our ethnic and racial makeup -- full color charts and graphs included.

While I have never sought out the exact ratios of my varied pedigree, I do know that I am made up of a rather lively blend of Scottish, Irish, English, German and American Indian ingredients. That being said, my American roots and citizenship go back many generations. As far as I know, none of my near relatives migrated to the states from somewhere else.

While I am interested in my cultural and ethnic roots, and am at the same time “Proud to be an American,” as the song says, (“Thankful to be an American” might be a better way to say it),  I am more interested and more grateful for my spiritual DNA, and the future hope that it has been instilled in me by my parents and grandparents.

I’m the “Son of a Preacher Man,” in the words of another well known lyric, and the grandson, nephew and cousin of pastors, preachers and missionaries on both my mother’s and father’s side. Through their example and teaching, I was encouraged to trust Jesus as my savior and understand my primary identity as a child of God and as a citizen of his kingdom, with Jesus as the King. This understanding helps temper my patriotism, clarify my priorities and encourage my interaction and cooperation with people from different backgrounds and nationalities, especially my brothers and sister in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of this understanding of one’s true home and identity when he says of Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation and of all the faithful in Christ,

And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God, (Hebrews 11:9–10, NLT).

The writer goes on, speaking of all of those who had died “in faith,” saying,

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them,   (Hebrews 11:13–16, NLT)

While we should all take a certain level of pride in our heritage - rejoicing in and preserving the best of our varied and beautiful cultures - and while we should all be thankful for and work for the good of the country of our earthly citizenship, we should be longing for and working toward our heavenly home under the leadership of our true king, Jesus Christ. If Jesus is our king and heaven is our home (as in the new heaven and new earth that will be established at the return of Christ), we will be saved from fear-based, self-centered nationalism and partisan politics, and freed to work with Jesus and each other for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors, especially the outcasts, the hopeless and the helpless, regardless of race, ethnicity or country of origin.

Your brother and friend,

Pastor Scott