What does it mean to be citizens of the Kingdom of God?

Recently, my husband and I visited Mars Hill's main campus in Seattle, Washington. While there, I picked up a devotional on the books of 1 and 2 Peter . At the time I had been studying 1 Peter on my own and thought it was a bit of a coincidence that this was the focus of the church at the time. Anyway, at the beginning of the study, the first question asked is, "What does it mean to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God?" Here I write my answer, noting that I do not reference any Scripture or theological texts, but rather just write from the top of my head - what is my first response today?

What does it mean to be citizens of the Kingdom of God?

  • It means that we are called to live life differently – we operate under a different system of law.
  • God is our ruler.
  • Our citizenship is given to us. Much like how I am born as a citizen of the United States, so too I am born a citizen of the Kingdom of God. But just as there are naturalized citizens of this country, so too we are naturalized citizens of God’s kingdom. The Jews or Hebrew people are the natives, whereas I have been engrafted as a gentile or a foreigner. My citizenship test was completed by God’s son, Jesus Christ, thus the true test of my citizenship is my relationship with Christ. This citizenship is relatively permanent, except for the rare occasion of treason or espionage, which I would associate with the difficult to define act of blasphemy.
  • Fellow citizens of this kingdom hold a sense of comradeship, unity, identity, and fellowship. When away from the others, citizens rejoice when they come across and identify with another citizen of the Kingdom of God. There is a sense of kinship in this shared identity.
  • The Kingdom of God has its own culture, which contains many subcultures; much like the United States has a general culture while each region, state, and community has a subculture.
  • There are those who more closely identify with the general culture of the Kingdom and these are often more quickly recognized by their citizenship then those who do not have as tight of identity connection. But nonetheless there are aspects of the culture that are so ingrained in the person that their identity as a citizen of the Kingdom cannot be fully dismissed and would be discovered after some investigation. It is often much easier to identify the subculture from which the citizen belongs and then by identifying this subculture it is assumed that the person is a member of the larger culture, and thus can be identified as a citizen of the Kingdom.
  • In addition to a relationship with Christ being the identifier of what makes a person a citizen, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the person’s life acts as the marker of this relationship. In a way the Holy Spirit is the national marker, the ID, the license, the passport for members of this Kingdom.
  • Citizens of the Kingdom have their own value system. This value system gives great respect to God, the Word of God, and the movement of the Spirit. This value system also influences how the citizens live their lives and is expressed in the decisions that they make. It impacts the entire way that they think, some would call this a Kingdom worldview.
  • What is unique about this Kingdom is both that it is not of this world and the fact that it is scattered amidst the kingdoms or nations that are of this world. In every nation of the earth there are citizens of the Kingdom of God, yet at the same time the opposite is not true, not all of the citizens of the nations of the earth are citizens of the Kingdom of God. It is a select group that is not made up of the most select of people. It isn’t necessarily the best of human specimen who can claim citizenship in this elect nation, rather this nation is made up of humans who have recognized their weaknesses and faults and have willingly recognized these before the superpower of the nation, God, and then received his graceful act of acceptance nonetheless. It is a unique form of being found elect, not typical of the hierarchy of other nations.
  • Being a citizen of the Kingdom of God also means that the person belongs to the superpower. While some would see this as slavery, this type of belonging works to bring about the greatest freedom for all “enslaved,” for the possessor is the kindest, most loving, and benevolent being who has and ever will exist. Thus this type of slavery actually promises the greatest of freedoms, for members of this citizen when fully reliant upon the King, find all of their needs fulfilled and discover their perspective on life has shifted in such manner that they are now fully free to live life to its fullest. The opportunities available to them have expanded while the limits to their freedom, while better understood have become minimized. It’s a unique overthrow of the governmental systems of the world, which desire to grant freedom, but by doing so often impair in illogical ways the lives of their citizens. This is the kingdom of true freedom.
  • Citizens of the Kingdom of God are guaranteed the benefit of eternal life and promised that when their residence on the earth ends they will enter the ultimate of Paradise, which can not be fully comprehended by the human brain and being. In this Paradise a home will be provided for them, as well as the best of the best, which money could never even attempt to possess here on the deteriorating earth. This new promised Kingdom home will be a place of life and fulfillment rather than death and destruction as the current earth holds. It will be the fulfillment of all things hoped for in the present and the recognition of what Christ completed in his life, death, and resurrection here on earth. All citizens upon departure from the earthly component of the Kingdom of God will be transformed, much like Christ, upon their arrival in the heavenly component of the Kingdom of God. Some call this component “heaven” while others call it the “new earth,” either way it will be a place full of God’s glory. This is the true location of the Kingdom of God – in God’s direct presence – whereas the earthly component makes these earthly residents into legal aliens.
  • The citizens of the Kingdom of God exist to bring glory to God. This is the agreed ends to which they purpose as aliens in this earthly kingdom.
  • The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of love. It is through God’s love that citizens breathe their daily breaths of life. It is a kingdom of hope and a kingdom of peace.
  • Finally, citizens of the Kingdom of God have been saved from all the things that human beings need to be saved from, including sin, death, and destruction.

What are your initial thoughts?

Comments

Katie Z. said…
a big piece of belonging to the Kingdom of God for me is being about healing/wholeness. The signs of the Kingdom of God in the tradition are that the blind will see, oppressed will go free, the captives will be released, good news for the poor and that the day of the Lord's favor is proclaimed. So if I'm not about those things, I'm not living in the Kingdom. It is here that we see glimpses of the already but not yet.

I really liked some of the citizenship analogies you made =) I especially liked that our id card is that we have been marked by the Holy Spirit

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