Thursday

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting as Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 20)

Philippians 3:17 – 4:3 Thursday 9 October 2014


Background

In today's passage, Paul encourages his readers to imitate hisown behaviour and not to be distracted by those who live "asenemies of the cross of Christ" (v. 18).

It's not clear who exactly Paul had in mind here. Somecommentators suggest that Paul was speaking about those who claimedthat following Christ also involved obeying the Jewish customs,such as circumcision (Philippians 3:2). Others suggest that he wasreferring to those who claimed that, because of the forgivenessthat Jesus made possible, trying to live a righteous life was notreally important. Still others suggest that Paul is simply speakingabout those who were diverted from the way of discipleship by thepull of the material world.

What is clear, however, is that the followers of Jesus arecalled to live by the values of heaven, because that is where theirtrue home is to be found. In today's world, where many people spendparts of their lives living in different towns or even in differentcountries, the question is sometimes asked, "But where do youconsider to be 'home'?" The answer can be shaped by a variety offactors and is not necessarily the place of birth.

Paul is clear that, for the follower of Christ, home is notanywhere in this world, and in verse 20 he uses the powerful phrase"our citizenship is in heaven". The word translated as"citizenship" in the NRSV is used nowhere else in the NewTestament, and a precise translation into English is difficult.Words such as "commonwealth", "homeland" or "colony" have beensuggested. It was a powerful image for the Philippians, who,although they were far from Rome, lived in a city which wasgoverned by Roman regulations.

Whichever translation is chosen, it is clear that Paul believesthat the followers of Jesus are to shape their lives by the valuesof the kingdom of God and not by the values of the particulargeographical location in which they happen to live.


To Ponder:

  • Wherever you geographically find yourself today, what might itmean for you to live as a "citizen of heaven"?
  • In verse 18 Paul is tearful as he speaks of those who do notfollow the way of Christ. What might it mean for us to have thatdepth of compassion for those whose values are different fromours?
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