CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

Wednesday, 7th Week of Easter       

            “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”

            What exactly does Jesus mean by the words “they do not belong to the world.” Nil Guillemette explains this passage by using a text from the Apostle Paul as a reference. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes in reference to those he calls “the enemies of the cross of Christ” the following words: “Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” Then he adds: “But our citizenship is in heaven.” In other words, Paul is saying that the true homeland of Christians is heaven. Here on earth, they are only migrants in transition.

            In his High-Priestly Prayer, Jesus expresses the same idea with different terms. He says that Christians are not of this world. This means, according to Nil Guillemette, “that Christians do not accept the values of the world, those values which center around selfishness, deceit, vanity, violence, brute power, slavish conformity, hedonistic search for pleasure at all costs, etc.” “Our values and inspiration are the complete opposite.” “We want to center our lives around service, self-gift, sacrificial love, non-violence, honesty, simplicity, truthfulness, chastity, commitment…”

            However, Jesus also insists that we are in the world. Apart from a very exceptional vocation, we are not called to leave the world and live as monks and hermits. Our role does not consist in escaping from the world or in avoiding all contacts with non-Christians. On the contrary, we are called to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” Yes, we do not belong to this world, but we are called to transform this world and make it God’s kingdom-like.

            Again, as followers of Christ we are called to get involved in the affairs of the world and influencing the world with the Gospel values. In the world of politics where power is used and abused by those in position to pursue and protect their selfish interests, we are called to exemplify servant leadership. In the world of business where financial profit is the highest value and unjust systems are at work to protect it, we are called to promote social justice. In the world of culture where distorted values are taught and materialism and consumerism are taking over, we are called to live by the kingdom values. We are citizens of heaven… as such, we must live by the values of God’s kingdom.

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