“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV).
Several years ago, I led a Men’s Bible Study. The first time we met, I asked the men to do that thing that most people really don’t like doing; I asked everyone to introduce themselves by telling them who they are.
Around the tables it went, every man stated their name and occupation to someone else. We had a number of farmers, some retirees, a few who worked for General Motors, and even a gentleman who drove a truck and happened to be home that weekend. Each person gave a brief synopsis of their lives, encapsulating themselves in an introduction that lasted only moments.
When everyone was done, I said to them, “Thank you for doing that. But I have to confess something to you; I set you up. I didn’t ask you to tell what you do, I asked you who you are.” Then we went on to discuss what it means to be a Christian man in the world, and especially how it relates to the next generation.
In the book of Philippians, the Holy Spirit is writing to a group of people who were all about their identity: where they lived, what they had, their land, their homes, and even their citizenship as Romans. They really, really liked being a part of the Roman Empire. For them, it meant security, honor, wealth, and prestige.
Sounds like a lot of people today. So often, people identify themselves with what they have, not Whose they are; the job that puts money in the bank, not the God who gives the job; the ‘toys’ collecting dust and rusting in the garage, attic, or basement, and not with those they have spent time with in Jesus’ name.
This month in America, we get to celebrate the birthday of our nation. We will experience fireworks and parades, picnics and get-togethers, outings and vacations. All of these things are good and right and proper ways to celebrate the freedoms we have in this country. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of them.
In the middle of it all, I pray that we as Christians identify ourselves as just that: Christians who happen to be Americans. Our identity is in Christ, not in the jobs we have, the stuff in storage, the stuff on display, or even where we happen to hang our hats. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, all of humanity has been in a struggle to identify with something, and in that identity reach the paradise we once had. The difference for Christians is that we know what our identity is: we have been crucified with Christ, buried with Him in Baptism, and raised to a new life!
So enjoy this month! Enjoy being Christians in the greatest country in the world! Enjoy the blessings that God has poured out on us as a nation as well as individuals. As great as the celebrations will be this month, they are nothing compared to the celebrations that will last forever when we arrive in our Eternal Home.
Photo courtesy of Elisa Schulz Photography.