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Christian Citizenship

Christians have dual citizenship. We have an earthly citizenship (Acts 21:39) and a heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20). Jesus did not want his disciples to be taken out of the world (John 17:15) but sent them into the world (17:18) to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19) and to exercise a transforming influence, like salt and light (Mt 5:13-16).

To that end we are not to conform to worldly patterns but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) I suggest we need to be renewed in our thinking about four important issues in our contemporary society: aging, education, family life and the environment, so that we can play a full part as British citizens without compromising our citizenship of the Kingdom of God.

“The length of our days is seventy years or eighty”, says the Psalmist (90:10) but many live longer today. The percentage of older people in the population is increasing. How do we respond to this and how should we treat our senior citizens? In ancient times the elderly were respected (Lev 19:32) but that is not always the case in our rapidly changing society where the ability to adapt to change is seen as a virtue. Old age can be a time of anxiety and loneliness (Ecclesiastes 12:1-5). But it can also be a time of contentment and eager expectation (Phil 4:11-13). What are our attitudes towards older people? Do we respect and value them or think of them as nuisances? Do we care for our elderly relatives out of love or duty? If we have an elderly neighbour living alone do we look out for them, especially in winter?

The Christian life is all about learning, developing and maturing. Education is important in contemporary society but there is more to education than schooling. It begins in the home. God told parents to teach their children so that they would revere him (Deut 4:9-10). Teaching is a divine as well as a human activity (Exodus 4:15; Isaiah 2:3; Luke 11:1; John 14:26) and the Church has the responsibility of teaching us to understand and live by God’s Word. Whether it is at home or at school and college, teaching is a huge responsibility for it is about helping youngsters to discover and develop their potential abilities and preparing them for adult life and responsibility. Have we, as parents, taken our own educational responsibilities seriously? Do we pray regularly for our local schools and the teachers whom we know? Have we sought to understand and support what their schools are trying to do for and with our children?

The family is one of the basic building blocks of society. That is why “honour your father and your mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. It is also why St Paul makes the conduct of family responsibilities a major consideration in the selection of church leaders (1Tim 3:4-5). Family life is the context in which a child should first experience unconditional love and begins to learn right from wrong (Deut 6:4-9). The importance that Jesus attributed to the proper care of children can be seen in Matthew 18:5-6. The family is also responsible for the care of its eldest members. St Paul says that anyone who does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, denies the faith (1Tim 5:8). What place does family life have in our priorities? How is this reflected in our daily timetable? When a family breaks up, what does it do to its members? Many of the former functions of the family have now passed to other institutions but what unique contributions does it still make for its members and for society?

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (Psalm 24:1-2) The world is not ours to do with as we please because it is not ours. God created it and made us his caretakers. (Genesis 1) Sadly, the human race has behaved more like the wicked tenants (in Luke 20: 9-16) and exploited the earth for our own selfish ends. In this we have followed the example of Adam and Eve and thus we experience the curse of Genesis 3: 17-19. But that is not the last word because with God redemption and hope are always possible. (Ezekiel 36:8-12) Damaged though the state of the planet is, we can still take practical steps to care for God’s earth before we have to account to him for our conduct as his caretakers. What, practically, do we do to care for God’s earth? In what state will our grand-children find the planet when they become its caretakers? What more could we do to reduce our energy and carbon fuel consumption?

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