Today’s reading: Philippians 1:27-2:11
This Saturday just gone was Australia day. For some people, this day will be a painful reminder of the injustices of colonialism. For others, it will be a chance to have a good time with friends and family over food and drinks and perhaps to “ooh!” underneath fireworks. Just in time for Australia day, the government will also recognise the Australian of the year. Last year’s Australian of the year was a professor in quantum mechanics. This year, the West Australian of the year is Craig Challen, a cave diver who helped rescue a boy’s soccer team who were trapped in a cave in Thailand. Such Australians are meant to be people who epitomise what it means to be Australian. They represent the best of what Australia is, and what we want to be known as around the world.
Many of us at Golden Bay Baptist are proudly Australian. In the world of the New Testament, the Philippians were similarly proud of their citizenship. As a Roman colony, Philippian residents were Romans. (A modern parallel would be how those living in New Caledonia (16,000km away from France) are French citizens just like those living in Paris.) And being a Roman citizen gave you great privileges. Being from Philippi was a big deal. They were proud of it – just as we are proud to come from Australia.
But as much as we love our countries, we must remember that we are only strangers here. Our true citizenship belongs in Christ’s Kingdom. Christ has, in fact, claimed all creation as His own. One day, He will return, and then every knee will bow and every tongue declare Him to be King and Lord of all.
But as of now, we live in a world where God’s sovereignty isn’t recognised. As a result, Christians can find themselves at the receiving end of antagonism or violence or insults. But, Paul reminds us, we shouldn’t be intimidated. Rather, we should stand together, united in our commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.
The unity of a church committed to Christ’s Kingdom is a powerful sign to both us and the world around us about what God is doing and will do. Citizens of Heaven have nothing to fear from a defeated empire.
But as citizens of heaven, Paul continues to explain in Philippians 2, Christians should also be people who share a common mind and purpose and unity. We can’t just be united against the world, we also need to be united with each other. And to do that, we need to keep our gaze fixed on Christ. We may disagree on many things – but we can all agree that the most important thing is seeing God glorified and the good news about Jesus spread.
Because the Christian of the year – the one who represents what being a citizen of heaven really looks like – is Jesus the Christ.