It may sound odd but every four years when the World Cup rolls around I’m reminded of the concept of dual citizenship. Almost every year conversation erupts surrounding a young soccer player who possess dual citizenship and would be eligible to play for either of their country’s soccer teams. Of course a lot of thought and worry goes into this choice for the athlete involved. Will the team they choose have space for them on their roster? Do they like the coaching staff? Will their country even qualify for the World Cup? Inevitably every year some player chooses wrong and chooses the country that either doesn’t make it to the World Cup or, despite their choice, there is no room for them on that team’s roster. Once you have played for a country’s senior national team there is no going back and many young players make this choice and never play at that level again. The choice to choose one citizenship over the other is a clear and definite decision.
Every one of us has dual citizenship in a sense. We live within the confines of a country. Many of us live inside a state and city as well. Every single one of those residencies has a set of expectations and rules. For most of us there are as many as three or four “citizenships” that we must keep track of and weigh both the benefits and responsibilities that accompany them. This is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of the United States as a sovereign nation and are most aware of our citizenship. For many, in addition to food, family and fireworks this is a time of reflection about our country and what it means for us.
To readers of passages like Phillipians 3:19b-20 the choice may seem clear: “…Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” This passage seems to indicate that, despite whatever earthly allegiances we hold, our one true citizenship is in Heaven. The rights and responsibilities of our citizenship there is far more important that our duties as citizens of any state or country. However, the counter argument is almost always given after a reading of Romans 13 which among other things has this to say, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Roman 13:1-2) This passage clearly urges us to follow the mandates of the earthly authorities. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction that is not only read here but felt by many throughout their Christian walk? Where does our “true citizenship” reside?
In seeking the truth of the matter I urge you to read 1 Peter chapter 2. In this passage you will find the ultimate answer when it comes to the question of our citizenship. The fact is that we are all travelers through this earth and subject to the rule and rulers we are governed by. However, the thing we hold dearest must never be a political allegiance but our relationship with Christ. This chapter in 1 Peter urges us to do the following: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” The answer is to be honorable citizens of this earth for as long as we are here; and to always maintain our respect for others (including those that oppose us). We must only then be concerned about the places that our love for God puts us in direct conflict with the powers that be. In those instances it is clear that we must choose to honor God first. We can respect and even celebrate our citizenship in this country but the object of our worship and love must always remain the ruler of our ultimate destiny in Heaven, God.