To The Immortal Citizens of Heaven
Beyond the reach of the remaining megalopolis-churches, skirting the lunar social stardoms, the sensational ‘lesser lights’, grounding itself in the three-pronged savior of the backwoods, the grassroots, and the homegrown local, shoots a word from the ground-floor of the past and the prophetic:
“The next revival will be a nameless and faceless one.”
See how quickly the neon-outlined darlings of Christendom have fallen – and continue to fall! As quickly as one erects a billboard, a headliner, a new book, just as hastily that same one falls backwards and headlong from their own backdoor. The Swaggarts, the Hinns, the Haggards, the Houstons, the Lentzes, the Zacharias’, the nicely decorated Jars of Clay, so many in the famed ‘industry’ of Christianity, all tumble down…
These words, ‘nameless and faceless’, however, bore fruition in all of culture and, largely, by way of social media. The more we learned, the less we trusted; the more we heard, the more we realized ‘they’ didn’t know either. And the more territory they claimed in superstardom, the less we realized we needed them – the ‘experts’, the famed ‘authorities’, the ‘mega’, and the super-spiritual sapes.
We could, after all, do our own research, buy the lights, the camera, and the action, construct our own virtual reality stardom complete with fans, haters, 3rd party drop-shipped ‘merch’, gnarly defense mechanisms, and hipster anxieties of a victimized stardom – once only found on a celebrity’s own murky website after a movie release. Each player in society now holds the same cards of potentiality, despite how they play the game.
‘Cause every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser… – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
‘Influencers’ are all the rage and abound in every niché. Chefs, theologians, and high school drop-outs, left or right wing, all have about the same odds of making a name for themselves today (a strange misnomer, as we were all given names at birth – weren’t we?) Suddenly, a deluge of leaders no nobleman, royalty, or founding father would have given the time of day to in the past, have an all-access calling card to speak to hundreds, thousands, and millions – if they just find the right schtick.
If the phenomenon of ‘Q’ proved anything it’s that a name or a face isn’t necessary to accomplish worldwide status or influence. Just a letter and a means of travel. In fact, all the better not to have a name or a face! After all, could bald-headed Quinten, upper-class Quest, or teenage Q-tip gain ear-ship across such a wide audience as did ‘Q’? It is doubtful. In vagueness and anonymity lay all its sublime power.
Even so, the consequences of this shift in culture, both spiritual and physical, are not all so grim. Perhaps, in Christian terms, there will be another John Wesley or Martin Luther, another Azuza Street or Brownsville Revival, to disrupt the balance of mainstay influencers as its own influence grows. Still, how much more effective might it be for the Citizens of Heaven – nameless and faceless, save for One Name – to act as ambassadors, each with their own gifts, within their local churches, communities, schools, businesses, and homes without competing for such status — being neither pedestaled as gods by those around them nor desiring the extraordinary (lear jet, mansion, or money bags) of a temporal being’s life, holding steadfast with contentment in domicile missions, eternally-driven?
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? – 1 Corinthians 3:3
As Citizens of Heaven, should we identify as the mortally famed, named, and knighted do? – As “mere humans”?
That reminds me of that ‘only human’ phrase some wield as their shield rather than the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). What are we among these “mere humans”? If the words of the Bible are inspired, as we rightly claim, then surely the apostle, Paul, was not tossing around mere words — Was he? Surely, he meant something by the distinction “mere”.
I am a sixth generation American. My great-great-great-grandfather came over from Stenlille, Denmark, and I often wonder about the difficulty of that journey.
I don’t know what it’s like to land on foreign soil with no job, no home, and, possibly, no family to seek out. I wonder whether they traveled alone or with a group of Danes to the hills of Wisconsin, and what led them there. Did they quietly put their heads down to fit in with those already established in the ‘New World’? Did they have Danish friends who could casually teach them the English language? When did they stop reading the Danish bible I gained as an heirloom, their children unable to speak the language? What other peoples, languages, and cultures did they encounter in the process of melting in? And what customs and comforts did they keep near and dear, perhaps rejecting foreign ideas about how to live?
The desire to form a new life while still clutching what cradled one’s identity-past, that urge to belong and be accepted while being also unwilling to sacrifice some of the former ways that might make social acceptance or vitality more favorable are, surely, desires not entirely foreign to any person. A soul’s felt or actual identity may be challenged in many ways, whether as the orphan, the newlywed, the new mother or father, the widow, or the newcomer in town.
We all engage in various identity transitions throughout life and the God-given ones are no simpler than the man-made versions. One need only to read a new mom’s blog, or observe an orphan living in residential care, listen to the newlywed’s explain their first fight, observe the fragility of a widow’s tears and the hard lines on a newcomer’s face to find the surface-level obstacles presented as the identity cocoon is being reconstructed –
It is not yet clear how they will emerge or whether they will survive the transition. And we speak of mere mortal things here! But the Christian struggles here too, often desiring in some way to follow Christ while retaining worldly comforts or worldly ways of thinking.
Nonetheless, how the identity of the Citizen of Heaven holds up in this present darkness bears far weightier consequences than the temporary afflictions observed in the mortal identities named above, though the circumstances and spheres of both bear influence upon the immortal soul – don’t they?
While ‘identity politics’ has become a popular and sordid catchphrase today, it is not a new idea. All that we do – political, religious, sexual, recreational, or dutiful – is coded from childhood, delineated in the unseen impressions made upon our soul’s DNA sequence: We act upon what we believe to be true of ourselves, what we believe to be true of others, what we believe to be true of God, and how we believe we fit into the context of mortality or immortality (whether we are correct or in error in those beliefs).
The cold collision amongst these beliefs, intentionally being teased like a 1980’s hairstyle in America today (and making us look just as ridiculous), has congealed like blobs of cheap hairspray or nine-day-old soup in the present ‘melting pot’. Assimilation is no longer the goal, but ‘diversity’ – something we’ve had all along, of course. The zeitgeist of the new ‘New World’ is one of building back the Tower of Babel better. The average citizen is the new slave of the corporate agenda, without a say at the big people’s table, where they cast virtuous signaling slogans like nets down upon us, saying, “Be a team player” (It’s selfish to have a dissenting opinion: polarization), “We’re in this together” (Group think is the only right thinking: propaganda), and “Solidarity” (If you’re not with us, you must be against us: dehumanization), while their figureheads clearly indicate that all they really mean or desire is complete bobblehead-obedience from the masses: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
What is it, I wonder, that they believe about themselves? About you? About God? About life? It must be rather grim, I think… But you have no need of me to tell you these things! They are all over the news and social media daily – aren’t they?
The real question here concerns how we are to engage the world and identity politics as Citizens of Heaven. – For, if you are ‘in Christ’, that is what you are! Heaven is your homeland.
And it’s no more made of pie than the moon is of cheese.
Confusion regarding the homeland is understandable. One is physically born in an earthly ‘motherland’, concrete or jungle, and even those who speak of rebirth into a heavenly citizenship (through Jesus) are too easily led astray by imaginations awash in sterilized whites attached to galaxies far away that appear harsh, when not indifferent, towards our daily struggles in rotting flesh and bone-picking.
Some look up and see only a mountain, only a cloud, only a speck of dust contrasted against an endless void of space, ever expanding, ever unknown, ever changing. Within such absent confines, it is nearly impossible to imagine that which does not change, can be known, and is absolute. Everything today is a fluid relativism dropped on the spectrum: One thing today, something else tomorrow, and who can know it?
Somehow, even the Citizens of Heaven have swallowed parts of this lie (when not the whole), yet both cannot be true at once. We cannot be mere mortal primordial soup flinging like a dog’s drool through the shaking universe and “seated in heavenly places with Christ”, created “in His image”, at the same time (Eph. 2:6; Gen. 1:27). Both cannot be true and both require a measure of faith – whether placed in God or in man’s stated mortal observations.
Speaking of identity politics, I judge neither the round earth nor the flat earth believers. After all, have you seen the Earth or Mars from outer space yourself or only NASA’s ‘artist rendition’ of it? Anyone living in the digital age knows that believing anything you see, hear, or print today requires a measure of faith – and some have more faith than others. (At this point, many have been made aware of the cigarette corporations’ lies and deceit in the past concerning the health risks of smoking; many have researched the government experiments on minorities, forced sterilizations and vaccinations; and the folly of Jussie Smollett is a lesson about the lengths even a single individual will go to further a pet-cause.) Nevertheless, and whichever belief we hold, Citizens of Heaven should look up and see something wholly different than the rest of the world.
Rather than a formless void, an empty space, a chaotic flurry of gasses, we gaze upwards into the eyes of God that run to and fro throughout the whole earth (round or flat) (2 Chron. 16:9); there is nothing untouched from His view. Yet here am I! Small, but not meaningless beneath His gaze; subjected to life’s fragility, but not insignificant in His purposes; dim, yet charged with glowing just the same with His blessing, His mission, and in His will; ‘in the world’ but no longer of this mere mortal chaos, entropy, or the curse: Immortal and “seated with Christ”, though I see it now only through the eyes of faith.
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart feel lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion; a constant Friend is He.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me.
– Civilla D. Martin
And yet heaven’s citizens do long for their homeland, and I believe that is as it should be – don’t you? I think the apostle, Paul, said it best:
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. – Philippians 1:21-24
There are few with such a mindset today. Many who have renounced their citizenship in the land of sin and death yet go on living as if they were of the world, more concerned with the world’s values, customs, beliefs, laws, ideals, and pursuits! Death is a difficult process – whether bearing with the slow demise of this earthsuit or dying to our old ways by taking up “the mind of Christ” – and one that many avoid (1 Cor. 2:16). It is easier to balance on the fence and gather worldly pillows in our nest to ease our stay there than it is to walk through the valley of the shadow of death en route to the homeland. But it is fundamental that a Citizen of Heaven, to gain citizenship, first dies to this world, being “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20).
We don’t love ourselves, as the world does; we die to ourselves.
That is Christ’s way.
Literally and figuratively, Citizens of Heaven no longer exist in the world’s eyes; rather, we become as dead men walking, alive in and to and for Christ alone. We belong no more to the land of sin and death (or under “the law of sin and death”, Rom. 8:2), and we will find no belonging there to satisfy the newborn soul’s demand for homeland milk. When we try to satisfy such a soul with foreign milk, we will later find that soul pierced through with many anxieties and afflictions of mind and heart, riddled in body and soul for all of the compromises made solely to be of the world, to belong to it, to be loved by it, to be comfortable in it.
If you are a self-professed ‘Christian’ still content in striving after the blissful nectar of a mere mortal’s social status in this land, then you can be sure that you have not yet died with Christ; you have not yet begun your immortal journey. We, Christ’s brothers and sisters, are sojourners here, compelling others to join us, on our way to the new homeland and Our Father’s bosom. The worldly sways of false and relative equalities, veneered covetousness from the gods of ‘more’ and ‘better’, simply do not translate into worth or identity for heaven’s citizens.
Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. – Romans 7:4
Unentangled Culture Clashes
It’s a dog-eat-dog, wolf-eat-wolf, sheep-eat-sheep kind of world out there. A passport is no longer sufficient for navigation; now the divided want blood. If you think you have an earthly homeland privilege, forget about it! That’s so 2001…
But it does not do for a soldier with present orders to get caught up or caught off-guard by civilian affairs. Though we are Citizens of Heaven in Christ Jesus, we bear a (spiritual) soldier’s plain duty here on earth.
If all of the world were to forbid us to talk about or teach of our homeland customs, laws, values, and faith here, in the land of sin and death, what possible reply can the soldier give except, “I have my orders to carry out”? It may be written in stark black and white or in invisible ink upon the heart; either way, “It is written” and so the Citizen of Heaven must do.
Alas! The world does not care about your orders, dear saint! You’re dead to them! – Remember? God still laughs at the thrones of men as nature’s Commander-in-Chief, so that we can boldly reply to the accusatory world, “Take it up with my Superior!”; we also go boldly before the throne of God in Heaven to seek counsel, take comfort, and gain our next orders when needed. The Captain of the starry hosts is not at all surprised that the foreign and ungodly have put you in jail, falsely accused you, or sought to kill you — and that in the name of their own supposed moral rightness! He and many of your own countrymen have been there before you!
Only do not give up your homeland bread and water and blood! Come what may, trust in Him! – The God you know by name, not the one they pretend to know by stamping His moniker on their mammon. That’s foreign coinage to you, meaningless and valueless in your homeland. However useful it may be here, it has no ties whatsoever to a Citizen of Heaven’s reborn value system.
Should a Citizen of Heaven identify as mortal? I don’t think so – How about you?
That is a bold statement when made by an earth-suit who bleeds the same as the next soul while in this terrestrial skin. If Citizens of Heaven, seated with Christ yet present on earth, go around talking about this ethereal homeland, someone is likely to load a gun to send us there under the pretense of testing our theory and putting us all out of our misery – Right?
That is a very real possibility, however, whether one boldly owns their soul’s DNA or makes a narrow escape from the fires of hell by shrewd silence. The Lamb of God’s blood is not silenced and His work forever speaks.
Simply put, as a child of God, as a Citizen of Heaven, I no longer identify as a mortal – and I have put this in terms even the worldly can understand. The rebirth in me does not recognize death’s claims in this foreign land.
“Death will leave our bodies but it will never touch my soul” – The Hunts, Peace Be Still
In the beginning and for all mortal beings:
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” — Genesis 6:3
But in the end and exclusively for those found in Christ and in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 20:12; Ex. 32:33; Phil. 4:3; Dan. 12:1):
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
— 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
What leverage can this world have on you if you are already seated with Christ in your heart and soul? Can they take your face, your name, the very heart of you away if all of those precious things – your face, your name, and your heart – belong to God alone?
The Citizens of Heaven have often been ‘nameless and faceless’ in their own rights, as they bear the name and face, the identity, of Jesus alone in this foreign land. But rest assured, dear saint, that God knows every child of His by name, by face, by heart, and by deed, and He sees all. There is no trouble, no blessing, and no injustice that escapes His perspective. He sits far above sociology’s proverbial stadium of perspective: He knows the truth about you and me and those He calls ‘wicked’ and those to whom He attributes ‘righteousness’…
I am not a social pacifist. Nevertheless, if we are to engage in foreign affairs, beloved, we must first understand who we are (or whose we are), where we are from, what is (and is not) the mission, and who we represent. That is the job of an ambassador – is it not?
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Peace be still to you.