Before Paul made it famous in Philippians 3:20, Jesus had already made it clear to his disciples that though they might be Jews living in a Roman occupied land on the eastern edge of the known world, they were neither citizens of Rome nor Israel. Followers of Jesus do not belong to this world, but rather they belong to the Kingdom of God.
This is a timely lesson as a blog post by Tony Jones makes the rounds on Facebook. In “There’s No Traffic Jam on the Canterbury Trail” Tony suggests that the recent conversion by famous Evangelical author turned Episcopalian, Rachel Held Evans is a chance for the [former] Mainline to reevaluate is citizenship. In post-WWII America, the burgeoning Mainline was the American Establishment at Prayer. It was so deeply tied into American politics and the capitalist machine that kept it all running that it lost the Gospel message as its members took up citizenship not in the Kingdom of God, but in the Kiwanis Club, the Country Club, and ultimately, the comfort of a Middle-Class lifestyle.
The downfall of the Mainline can be traced to the relative comfort of its members, and the same will ultimately be true of evangelicalism. In order to claim membership in the comfortable things of this world, we must first renounce our citizenship of the Kingdom of God. That’s Jesus’ main message to his disciples in the high priestly prayer: things are about to get really uncomfortable, but that’s OK because that’s what it means to live counter-culturally.
To be clear, I’m not saying that we all have to give up our houses, cars, and jobs and move to inner city Birmingham to preach the Gospel to under-served populations, but I am saying that following Jesus doesn’t assume a big house, a nice car, and cushy job. For a disciple of Jesus, the goal of life isn’t cushy material things and political power, the goal of life is the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God: a place where the Good News is shared with reckless abandon, where the poor and the outcast are tended to, where the comfortable give sacrificially, and where the only language spoken is love.
I’m not there yet. On my best days, I strive to help bring the Kingdom of God into my circle of influence. Most days I end up worrying about the rat race. Every moment offers the choice: where do I want to belong?