29 January, 2016


I'm thinking about citizenship. Tuesday was Australia Day, the day we celebrate being Australian, and tonight some of our local Aussie friends are joining us for an (indoor) barbie. 

But the night before Australia Day I sat in on a session with a multinational panel who also talked about citizenship. All four on the panel are known as Adult TCKs or Third Culture Kids (definition of TCK here). They all spent part or all of their years growing up in Japan, but had citizenship in other countries. Most of them have parents who weren't Japanese, or if they were Japanese had lived overseas for a significant time with their children. Most of the panel have moved between a variety of cultures and sub-cultures throughout their lives. That's lead to quite a complex identity for each of them, none of them could easily be put into a box.

For example, one young man was born in Singapore, but came to Japan as a baby and grew up here as the child of Singaporean missionaries. He spent a number of those years at CAJ, which is an international environment, one where he felt very much at home. After graduation he returned to Singapore to do his compulsory military service for two years. Following that he went to university in Britain. He's now back in Japan and a self-proclaimed international vagabond, and he's at peace with that. Where's home? That's not a good question.

But he has citizenship in heaven. It was a concept, a reality, that has given him and others on the panel great comfort.

So I was pondering citizenship. I have Australian citizenship. What does that mean? It means I have the right to live in that country without a visa and I don't have to carry identification with me.  I can go in and out without permission or people asking questions though Centrelink [government welfare agency] likes to ask lots of questions, they're the only ones who've ever questioned the validity of my citizenship; interestingly, though, the tax office is fine, as long as you continue to submit tax returns! 
It's kind-of like a life-time season pass.

It also means that I have the right to vote (which is also a responsibility). I have other responsibilities too, like paying taxes (but I also have that with residency in Japan) and taking care of my country.

I have a right to the privileges of citizenship, like education and health care. It means, too, that I can retire to Australia without special permission to do so.

So what does heavenly citizenship mean? It this term is only mentioned once, by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21, NIV
Here's another version:
But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. He will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body. Christ can do this by his power. With that power he is able to rule all things. International Children's Bible.
We Christians often forget this. Yes, we have citizenship here on earth and it's something we often value. People like panelists I met earlier in the week value earthly citizenship a little less than those of us who have strong roots in one country. In many ways it's probably easier for them to remember this verse than others for whom "Where's home?" is easier.

Having citizenship in heaven is a comfort because it means my future is secure. The privileges of citizenship in heaven will completely outclass any citizenship I can gain here on earth (and we surely won't have Centrelink hounding us for our whereabouts and loyalty).

Citizenship in heaven has consequences here on earth. It means that when I meet people with whom I have nothing in common but my faith, I feel a kinship. I love worshipping in Japanese, not because I understand all the words that I'm singing (and I generally don't), but because I love being together with my "fellow citizens".

Heavenly citizenship also has responsibilities here on earth. Taking care of my fellow citizens, spreading the good news to others who haven't heard of this amazing good news, as well as being responsible caretakers of what I've been given (from material goods to skills and abilities).

I'm reading through Daniel at present. I was encouraged to read what King Darius proclaimed to his who dominion after God protected Daniel in the lions' den:
“Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: "May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. 'For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end'" Daniel 6:25-26, NIV. 
Heavenly citizenship in a kingdom that will never be destroyed, that will never end. Wow!

Then the famous passage about heaven:
"'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” Rev. 21:4, NIV.
Tonight I'm going to enjoy a barbie, eating snags and pav, and talkin' Aussie. But it is but a poor glimpse of the joy of taking up residency with my Heaven passport!

If you want to think a little more on this, I recommend this article about Australia Day and avoiding the extremes of the season.


-J said...

Just getting around to reading this. Well put!

Wendy said...

Thanks J! I'm thinking of editing this into something much shorter that I could submit to The Upper Room. We'll see how it goes.