Our first three children entered this world as dual citizens – Americans by virtue of their parents – and Canadian by virtue of their place of birth.
When we crossed the border to move back to the States, we laid out all the appropriate paper work at customs while the little nippers slept soundly in the van, oblivious to our crossing in the middle of the night.
The apostle Paul knew all about dual citizenship too. Born of Jewish parentage from the tribe of Benjamin, he was, as he put it, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” But because he was born in the free city of Tarsus, he was also a full Roman citizen.
This came in handy years later when Paul was faced with who he wanted to stand trial before – the Jewish leaders or the Roman emperor. He claimed his Roman right, saying, Caesarem appello – “I appeal to Caesar.”
But come to think of it, all Christians hold dual citizenship. By birth we are all citizens of some earthly nation. And by faith in Christ we are citizens of an eternal kingdom. As baptized children of God, you and I live out our days in what Luther called “the two kingdoms.” Both kingdoms are established by God. Both kingdoms serve different purposes. Both kingdoms are given different tools. Neither kingdom fares well when it borrows the tools of the other. Jesus Himself outlines our dual citizenship in His famous saying: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. and to God what is God’s.”
There are some things that we cannot give to Caesar. There are some things that belong only to God – such as our ultimate faith, love and our very selves. We are not our own. We were bought at the price of our Savior’s precious blood so that, as Luther said, we “should be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom.” This is the other kingdom in which we live.
Our Lutheran Augsburg Confession says: “The power of the Church and the civil power must not be confounded.” As Christians in a free society, we thank God for our liberty which allows the Word of God to be freely preached and believed. Still, as Christians who believe what the Bible says about original sin, we know that every form of government can go bad. A monarchy is only as good as the current king on the throne. A nation governed by its electorate is only as good as the people who go to the polls.
Paul once said to the Philippians: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We dual citizens serve our own beloved land best by serving Christ first in our separate lives. For neither Caesar’s sword nor Caesar’s laws shall ever do what only the Spirit’s Sword – Christ’s gospel – can do, create citizens, one at a time, of a kingdom that shall never end.