Membership Has Its Privileges

Passport

Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…”

“Aliens” has become an emotionally charged word in our time, especially when paired with the word “illegal.” The foreigners and aliens Paul has in mind were not nearly so controversial.

The people Paul was picturing with these metaphors were the Gentiles. For centuries they were not included as part of God’s people. Although that is not true of the Gentiles as a class of people today, Paul’s words still have application to each of us before we came to faith.

How, then, were we like foreigners and aliens? Such people struggle with the language and culture of the country they have come to. Those foreign to God’s kingdom find the communication problems only worse. Not only do we not know the meaning of terms like justification, sanctification, grace, or redemption. The very concepts are unknown. We can’t comprehend being saved by forgiveness without our good works. We don’t speak God’s language of salvation, and that leaves us with deep suspicions that work against trust and faith.

Such non-citizens may have as much trouble with the law as they do with the language. Spit your gum out on a street or sidewalk in the United States, and the person who winds up with it stuck to the bottom of his shoe may be annoyed, but you won’t have the police on your tale. Try that in Singapore, and you may find yourself a thousand dollars poorer. It’s the law. When I was growing up in Minnesota, I remember Vietnamese refugees being arrested or fined by the game warden because they would be caught with 5 or 6 times their legal limit of some kind of fish. They didn’t have such limits in their home country.

Foreigners and aliens to God’s kingdom may be just as ignorant of some of his laws. A man new to the Christian faith was taking premarriage classes in one of our churches. He was shocked to learn there was anything wrong with premarital sex. The unbelieving world openly rejects many other laws of God’s kingdom. Abortion and euthanasia, homosexuality and no fault divorce are just a few of the things our Lord condemns but the world embraces. Those who approve of these things live as citizens of a different ruler and a different country. They may be unaware of the horrible sentence God will pass on those who defy his law.

For those who believe, that was the past. Paul says that something has changed. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…” Why would God take someone whose values are so different than his and give them official standing as a member of his holy, spiritual nation of people? Why would he be willing to make it so easy to become one, and so costly for him? Those who want to become citizens of the United States go through a course of study, and take a test, before they can take the oath. Our Lord did all the work for us by giving us Jesus. The process was complete the moment he first kindled faith in our hearts.

Such heavenly citizenship certainly has its privileges. We have immediate access to the ruler of the country. He will hear our case and consider us in his policies and decisions.

Better yet, we are privileged to live under his gracious rule. His government provides public services and protections like no other government on earth. He provides for the health of our souls by distributing forgiveness at no cost to us. No deductible or co-pay has to be met. His system of education provides truly higher learning. An army of angels defend us from our enemies, and he miraculously and mysteriously turns the evil we do suffer to work for our good.

But he gives us a position even more intimate and privileged than that. We have been changed from foreigner to family member. We are members of God’s own household. He has made us family.

Doesn’t the mention of family fill most people with an immediate sense of security? Children in the family have all their needs provided. They don’t worry about shelter, clothing or food. Mom and dad simply take care of that for them.

It is in God’s spiritual family that we find a Father’s love, love so deep and so completely devoted that he would not spare anything, even his own Son, to make us his own and save us from sin and death. It is in God’s spiritual family that we find the love of fellow brothers and sisters in faith who support and encourage us on our journey through life and help keep us on the way that leads to our heavenly home.

Membership has its privileges. Nowhere is that more true than the spiritual nation in which God has given us citizenship and divine family into which he has adopted us.

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