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Our Citizenship Is in Heaven

When the apostle Paul wrote to Philippian Christians he was aware of how important their principle of re-creating a home in a foreign place was for them. Philippi was a colony of Rome—a part of the Roman commonwealth. This meant more than its being a subject city: Philippi was distinct from other cities in Macedonia in that it was made to be a model Roman city. In a colony one would find Roman customs, Roman architecture, Roman dress, and the prevailing language was Latin. It was, in a word, a fragment of Rome. If you were to walk into the city, you would have the feeling of entering an Italian suburb of Rome, even though it was nearly a thousand miles distant. So when Paul was writing those Philippian Christians, he knew they would understand him when he said, “Our commonwealth is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20 RSV)

But there is an important difference between Paul’s calling Christians to be citizens of a heavenly commonwealth and the human tendency to make a home on foreign soil by imitating the customs of the homeland. The difference is simply that no matter how courageous and inventive our efforts, we Christians must never forget that this world is not home. There is a sense of alienation that must be taken into the heart of all experiences. Adaptation may be second nature, but it can also be the death of our first nature—that created in the image of God and then re-created by the grace of God in Christ.

A. J. Conyers, The Eclipse of Heaven, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois), p. 75