As Christians, we consider ourselves temporary sojourners on earth and citizens of a heavenly kingdom. What does that signify concerning our civic duties during our time here on earth? Jesus set the example in all particulars of life, including this one. The circumstances of His birth—the fulfillment of prophecy that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem—was guided by God through the government at the time.
"Now Joseph was of the lineage, or family, of David; and so, when a decree was sent out for the people to be taxed, he had to go to Bethlehem, the city of David, to have his name enrolled," (The Story of Jesus, p. 13).
While placing obedience to God is the Christian's first duty, deference should be paid to the authorities in this world and obedience given to the laws in place. We must trust that our all-powerful God is in control of worldly affairs.
Ambassadors of Heaven
Now, what of our responsibility as citizens of heaven? Are we good ambassadors? Do we make others want to become citizens of heaven too?
Jesus is the source of light, love, and grace. Having Him within our hearts allows us to experience a taste of what heaven will be like. We become partakers of heaven already.
"As through Jesus we enter into rest, heaven begins here. We respond to His invitation, Come, learn of Me, and in thus coming we begin the life eternal. Heaven is a ceaseless approaching to God through Christ. The longer we are in the heaven of bliss, the more and still more of glory will be opened to us; and the more we know of God, the more intense will be our happiness. As we walk with Jesus in this life, we may be filled with His love, satisfied with His presence. All that human nature can bear, we may receive here,"—The Desire of Ages, 331, 332.
"When the Lord's people are filled with meekness and tenderness, they will realize that His banner over them is love, and His fruit will be sweet to their taste. They will make a heaven below in which to prepare for heaven above,"—Testimonies for the Church 7:131.
Our duty is to create a "heaven" here on earth, to give a taste of heaven to the "world"—our neighbors, our co-workers, our teachers, our church brethren, city workers, and, yes, even politicians.
We need to find ways to share glimpses of heaven in our daily lives. These ways range from the simplest, like smiling to a stranger, forgiving a hasty word by a family member, extending grace to a colleague, listening and hearing when someone talks, helping a neighbor, praying for government officials, writing an encouraging note to your minister, to more time-consuming efforts like missions, literature distribution, Bible studies, monetary tithes and offerings, volunteering in the community, etc.
Creating a "heaven below" for those whom we love and who love us may be easy. But part of being an ambassador of heaven is reflecting its law of love and inclusion. Who do you treat with apathy? Are there people in your life—maybe most coworkers, teachers, neighbors, policemen, and politicians—that you really do not care about? Rarely do you give them a second thought?
I would like to challenge you. This week find someone that fits this category and pray for them. Then, find a way to do something nice for them, even the simplest of things. Take a step towards intentionally bringing a bit of heaven into this world.
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," Luke 11:2. Let us not just recite the words He taught us. Let us live them.