July 17, 2018 • Life for Leaders
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Have you ever been present when people became citizens of a country? Perhaps you were an immigrant who became a citizen of the country where you now live. Or perhaps you attended a naturalization ceremony in support of a friend or family member. I have never been present at such an event, but I have watched filmed snippets as people take the Oath of Allegiance and become citizens of the United States. They proclaim their allegiance to this country with obvious pride and sense of accomplishment. Their entry into citizenship is often complemented with tears of joy and much celebration.
Honestly, I sometimes tear up as well when I watch strangers become citizens of my country. Why does this move my heart? There are many reasons, but one is that they are not just citizens of any country. They are my fellow citizens. Though I will probably never meet them, we share something profound, a common bond and commitment. We are part of something that is bigger than ourselves. We are connected in deep and meaningful ways.
Ephesians 2:19 reveals that Gentiles “have become fellow citizens with God’s people.” Once we were “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But now, because of what God has done through Jesus Christ and his reconciling death, we who were once excluded from God’s people have become “fellow citizens.” The Greek word used here is not the ordinary word for citizen (polites), but a compound word that emphasizes the “fellow” part of our citizenship (sumpolites). We belong not just to God but to the community of our fellow citizens in God’s kingdom. Ephesians 2:19 underscores the relational quality of our citizenship by adding, “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” We are also God’s relatives, members of his family.
In a day when “spiritual” people are less and less inclined to be actively involved in any religious community, when millions of Christians seem satisfied to remain disconnected from other believers, we need to hear the good news of Ephesians 2:19 and consider the implications for our lives. Because of Christ, you are a fellow citizen with God’s people. You belong not just to God but also to the community of those who have pledged their allegiance to God through Christ.
Something to Think About:
Are you living out this truth? Are you an active, engaged citizen, sharing life and mission with your fellow citizens?
If not, why not?
How might you become a more involved citizen of the kingdom of God?
Something to Do:
If you have a few spare minutes, do a video search on “citizenship oath ceremony” and watch a couple of YouTube video clips. Think about how what you are watching is relevant to your citizenship in God’s kingdom.
Gracious God, thank you for welcoming me as a citizen of your kingdom. Thank you for receiving me into citizenship, not all by myself, but as one of many fellow citizens. Help me, Lord, to live fully as a fellow citizen. May I share life and ministry with your people. May I offer myself in service to them and with them in service to the world. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
God’s Grand Plan: A Theological Vision (Ephesians 1:1–3:21)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Returning from a term in the Philippines we were surrounded by a dozen babies being brought to their new parents in the US. We got off the plane and say a cordoned off area with parents-to-be waiting excitedly for our arrival so we stopped to watch as the little ones were brought off the plan and matched up with their new moms and dads. It brings a tear to my eye again just writing this. What joy for all of us as these little orphans were handed into the loving arms of their new parents.
Thanks for this reminder that we were once like those infants who were, by grace alone, bought from unwanted lands to become fellow citizens with of God’s Kingdom.
Thanks for this wonderful comment!