In Philippians 3:20 believers are told that we are now citizens of God’s Kingdom. When we came into a relationship with God through Jesus, we became a part of His family; His nation of the redeemed that He is calling out of all the world to be His holy (set apart) people. So no matter what nation we happen to live in here on earth, our first allegiance is to God and His Kingdom.
The Bible also tells us that one day, maybe soon, Jesus will return to this planet and He will reign over all the earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). At that time, everyone will see the truth of who God is and what He has done for us.
But in the meantime we are to live as His people – His representatives and ambassadors – in the midst of this present, fallen world. As God tells us through Peter in I Peter 2:11-16, as citizens of God’s Kingdom we are to live as strangers and aliens in this present world. And if you’re not sure what that life looks like, he goes on to tell us…
- Abstain from sinful desires. In this world we will face temptations that we need to say no to. The fact that we have those desires – whether they’re based on genetics or our personalities or something missing in our life or just plain sin – the desire itself is not sin. It’s simply part of being born into and living in a fallen sinful world. But giving in to those sinful desires is sin. So when the world tells us “It’s okay!” we need to define sin by God’s standards, not the world’s, and say no to it.
- Live a life of good deeds among the world. As we interact with the citizens of the world around us, we are to live a life that is known for good deeds. We are to love others with sacrificial (Agape) love. Our first priority should not be to build a prosperous, secure life for ourselves. Rather, our primary desire should be to help those around us; to bless their lives and help meet their needs.
- Submit to earthly authorities. We are to obey the laws of the land where we are living. We are to submit to those who are in authority over us. Even if we don’t like what they’re telling us. Even if we disagree with what they are requiring of us. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we are to submit to the earthly laws and authorities that we are currently under here in this world. The only exception would be if they tell us to do something that God has clearly told us is sin. At that point we should follow God’s laws, not man’s, and trust God with the consequences.
- Live as free men, not under religious legalism, but don’t use that freedom as an excuse to sin. In Christ, we are no longer bound by the Laws of the Old Testament. And we are not bound by any religious “laws” that men have come up with in this New Testament era of history. Our salvation is a gift from God, based on God’s grace alone and not on our works. We are no longer slaves to the Law. We are to live as free men and women! But… as God’s children and citizens of His Kingdom, He calls us to love Him and to love each other. And if we love Him, we will obey His clear teachings. Our freedom is not an excuse to sin.
- Live as a servant of God. The bottom line of our life should be to serve God. As a good servant serves his earthly master, we too, as God’s servants, are to do things His way; obey His commands; live to please Him in all we do; trust Him to take care of our needs. Instead of putting ourselves first – our own desires and opinions and plans – we are to put God first in our lives.
- Show proper respect for everyone. In the Greek, “show proper respect” in I Peter 1:17 actually means “to fix the value.” This verse could also be translated Honor all people. God wants us to represent Him well. And He is a God of love and compassion and mercy. Every person in this world is someone that Jesus died for, to pay for their sins, because of God’s great love for them. So as His ambassadors, He wants us to see people as He does; to value people as He does. He wants us to treat them with respect so they will see the value that He places on their lives.
- Love other believers. As aliens and strangers in this world, we need each other! All of those who are citizens of God’s Kingdom have a common bond. We are united together in God’s family. God wants us to love each other, and encourage each other, and help each other as we walk through this fallen world, waiting for Christ’s return.
- Fear God. In this New Testament era of history, we tend to focus a lot on God’s love and grace and mercy. But God is also holy and just. He is all-powerful. He is above all. God does not play games with us, and He doesn’t want us playing games with Him. We need to take our relationship with God seriously, always remembering that this God we can now call father because of what Jesus did for us, is also the one mighty King above all.
If you are a believer in Jesus, a member of God’s family, a citizen of His Kingdom, I hope you will take to heart the instructions Peter has given us on how to live as strangers and aliens in this world. God wants us to be holy and set apart. He wants us to represent Him well. He wants people to see something different about us (in a good way!), so it will lead them to ask us why and will draw them into God’s Kingdom too. May that be true of each of us.