If by chance, I had been born some one hundred years earlier than I had, in 1850 instead of 1950, I would probably have proclaimed that I was a citizen of Virginia (where I was born) first and a citizen of the United States second. But one outcome of the Civil War was that people no longer necessarily saw themselves as citizens of the state first but citizens of a United States first (though there are some even today who hold onto those old allegiances). So it is that I was born in Virginia, the son of an Air Force officer and the grandson of an Army officer.
And it should have been that I would have become an Air Force officer as well, choosing to follow in the family tradition. But when it came time to make that choose, we were involved in the Viet Nam war. Granted, growing up as I did, that should have had no effect on any decisions I might make about military service. But with the Viet Nam war came the draft.
And long before I opposed the war, I opposed the draft. When you are brought up in a system whose stated purpose is the defense of freedom and one of those freedoms is the freedom to choose, being told that you will serve in the United States Army and that you will being sent to Viet Nam, all without goes against the very notion of those freedoms and what this country stood for.
And as this country found its way falling deeper and deeper into the morass of Viet Nam, we were also engaged in a struggle for civil rights, another battle that came about because people saw the inconsistency and hypocrisy of saying that this was a nation founded on the notion of freedom and equality while denying both freedom and equality to many individuals, solely because of their race or creed (and even today, their sexuality).
And while this was going on, I was discovering that I was not only a citizen the United States but a citizen of God’s Kingdom. At first, I didn’t understand that I was such a citizen or how that all came to me. Quite honestly, I figured that access to God’s Kingdom came from what I did in the secular world and the more I did, the better my chances were that the door to this Kingdom would open for me. Opposing the war and standing for civil rights were things that I had to do if I wanted to enter God’s Kingdom.
But I was wrong. Doing what was and is right doesn’t necessarily open a door that had already been opened. It was, of course, my acceptance of Christ as my personal Savior that had opened to this Kingdom.
And once I understood that I was living in and a citizen of God’s Kingdom, doing good wasn’t a pre-requisite but a requirement, the responsibility of citizenship. And I also understood that there were times when the requirements for citizenship in God’s Kingdom conflicted with the requirements for citizenship in the secular world.
The challenge of any citizenship is to do what is right and when the requirements for citizenship in God’s Kingdom are in conflict with the requirements for citizenship in the secular world, then you have to follow the requirements for God’s Kingdom. But when you live in both kingdoms, you have to be careful that you know which is which. You had better make sure that what you feel are the requirements for God’s Kingdom are what you say they are and not what people say are the requirements.
When I began my journey with Christ I also began a journey that would lead me to become a scientist and a chemist. And as I looked at the secular world around me, I marveled at God’s creation and I searched for the evidence that would allow me to understand that creation as well as marvel in its beauty and complexity. But there are those today who say to me that one cannot be a citizen of the Kingdom if one does not blindly and totally accept the notion that this world and this universe were made in six days some ten thousand years ago.
Somehow, I have never accepted that idea of kingdom citizenship. If anything, seeing the development of the universe in all of its complexities only makes the wonder that much more and pushes me to learn more about the world and the God who created not only the universe but me as well.
I know this today. I seek answers to nature’s questions and in finding those answers I am able to better understand who I am and who God is. And the better that I understand who I am and who God is, the more I need to help others to do the same.
And my job, my responsibility as a citizen of God’s Kingdom is to help those who live in the secular world, people who are hurt, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I cannot enter God’s Kingdom and ignore the secular world. I cannot enter God’s Kingdom and then try to shut the door that I never opened in the first place behind me.
I have a responsibility to live in two worlds, the world of God’s Kingdom and the secular world in which it resides. It is not part of my responsibility to make others citizens of God Kingdom; it is my responsibility to help others find God’s Kingdom. I cannot, as a citizen of God’s Kingdom, ignore the hurt, the sick, the naked, the lonely, the abandoned because someone told me that they were not worthy of being a member. God has proclaimed that all are worthy and can come in if they want; I must help to remove that pain and anger that prevents that from happening.
Many years ago, I made decisions that allowed me to be the citizens of two kingdoms. Did you?