Citizens of another Country

Dr. Phil:      In light of the latest geo-political developments, I was reflecting on my trip to Ukraine and Russia in 2014. If you recall, at that time Russian annexed Crimea to once again be part of Russia. Within a one week period on that trip I was with leaders in Ukraine and Russia. As you can imagine, there were strong feelings on both sides which eventually affected whole denominations. Denominations and organizations that had been reunited in the 1990s decided to again officially separate due to the geopolitical tensions in the region.

Since we are connected with ministry leaders in both countries, I had the opportunity to share with them what I shared with various other denominational leaders. Namely, the fact that we have a citizenship that supersedes whatever country issues our passport. The reality is that as believers we are citizens of a heavenly, eternal city.

While it may seem that the events on the ground half a world away have little impact on our lives, I believe there is an application for us. As I have observed the events of the last year surrounding the pandemic, I have been reminded that the enemy seeks to bring destruction and disunity everywhere. Just as these leaders struggled to  maintain spiritual unity in the face of their temporal realties, that same could happen with us if we are not careful.

As we all know, bringing up any issue surrounding the pandemic and the decisions made by governments to deal with it seems to instantly polarize people. Even in the church there has developed a deep divide and everyone has taken sides on the issues. Yet in the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly states that the world was to know that we were his disciples because of our love for one another, not if can prove our position is the right one.

Now, of course, love for one another does not mean that we will always agree on every issue. Unity does not mean sameness and diversity does not necessarily have to lead to division. We can actually experience unity even in the midst of diversity. As I shared with my Ukrainian and Russian colleagues at the time, we need to elevate our perspective to an eternal one, remembering that we are part of something so much bigger than our temporal and flawed earthly cultures and societies.

My hope is that through these times we can experience our common grace and extend that to each other. Though it is not possible to always live at peace with all people, the writer of Hebrews encourages us to “make every effort to live in peace with all men. . .” This season will eventually pass, but will we as the body of Christ (and in our families) have created divisions that will be harder to heal after we are through to the other side of this season? It is my hope and prayer that this will not be the case, for as Jesus taught his first disciples, it is our love and unity that is to be a testimony to the world that we truly are his followers.

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