Citizenship

I have never been comfortable with the word “sermon.” It sounds too stuffy and distant. So, I have never been satisfied with calling the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5-7 “The Sermon on the Mount.” That title does not even come close to capturing the weight of what he was saying. This is not just a collection of moral instruction. It is a charter, a constitution for a new nation, a new kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven.  Israel was not the kingdom of Heaven. America is not the kingdom of Heaven. These are nations of men. Jesus calls us out of our national identity and citizenship into a citizenship in a new nation. It is a spiritual kingdom that transcends the physical borders of land, ethnicity and human culture. We are called to allegiance to this kingdom of Heaven first, foremost, and solely.

This “Sermon on the Mount” is, in essence, the political platform of this new kingdom. It is the spiritual infrastructure of kingdom culture. As Brian McLaren called it, it is a “Kingdom Manifesto” – a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization. This manifesto is our platform. It is our political agenda. We are not Republicans, Democrats, or Libertarians, we are Kingdom Citizens. We espouse a greater agenda than any party platform compromised by the failings of men.

The nations of men honor the politically powerful, wealthy, and attractive. They consider athletic ability a blessing, give awards to each other, and clap for the successful.
In the kingdom of Heaven, the meek, peacemakers, seekers of righteousness, neglected and hurting are to be honored. These are the characteristics of those worthy to lead, to be celebrated and to be voted for. (Matthew 5:1-11)

In the nations of men, the truth is hard to discern. Deceit and spin are the norms.
Kingdom citizens are to be illuminators of clarity and goodness. If we compromise, we lose any effective influence. (Matthew 5:13-16)

In the nations of men, one’s character is often defended by comparing it to the actions of another accused of worse infractions as if “not as bad” is an acceptable assessment.
Kingdom citizens are not satisfied with control over our actions, but with eradicating from our hearts that which is not of God. A man is not accurately assessed by reviewing his rap sheet. His heart and mind are where his true character resides. (Matthew 5:20-30)

Technicalities, loopholes, confusing contracts and the easy way out clog the courtrooms of men. The short-lived relationships of celebrities clutter our headlines and infidelity is a multi-billion dollar business.
Kingdom citizens are people of kept promises to our spouses and to everyone we deal with. We forgo personal expedience and honor our commitments. We do not settle for half truths. (Matthew 5:31-37)

In the nations of men “Kill them all” and “Bomb the heck out of them” are common mantras, fear rules and the humanity of others is devalued. In the nations of men, we brag about our abilities to kill others and take pride in our capacity for violence.   
Kingdom citizens end the cycle of violence by loving our enemies and not seeking revenge. (Matthew 5:38-48)

Men seek fame and status. Public servants often become nothing more than sociopathic power mongers. Their good deeds are little more than self-serving political stunts. Preachers become tv personalities and stylish, whitened-teeth figures. 
Kingdom citizen’s religious practices are free of selfishness and attention seeking. When our faith communities become narcissistic, pats on our backs from each other are all we get. (Matthew 6:1-18)

The nations of men worship the dollar and build fragile economies. They are concerned with the clothes worn on the red carpet, climb the ladder of greed at all costs and their stomachs are their gods.  
Kingdom citizens live life from the greater perspective of the larger story. We transcend the smaller stories of fear and worry written by men and our shallow, consumeristic desires. (Matthew 6:19-34)

In the nations of men, the line between good and evil runs between us and them. We are the sophisticated and they are the savages. We are “the legal” and they are “the illegal.”
Kingdom citizens look at others through the lens of grace. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Pledging allegiance to Jesus means embracing this kingdom manifesto and participating in this God-culture that is counterintuitive to the culture of men. But, I am afraid we have diluted this message with the influence of political parties and nearsighted, man-made agendas.

I acknowledge the difficult position followers of the way of Jesus find ourselves in as we attempt to navigate our political landscape. All of this is much more complex than an 800-word blog post can address. But, my point is not to tell you how to vote or to present answers to our most difficult challenges as a nation. My point is to remind us to not sell out, not to compromise, not to justify and to not let anyone person or group commandeer our voice. I seek only to remind you of the nation of your true citizenship. As you physically reside in the kingdoms of men, you yourselves are aliens. Live as such and do not fail to maintain the culture of the kingdom.

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