The more you read the Bible the more you realize it’s important to keep two ideas – often seemingly contradictory ideas – in your head at the same time.
For instance, that God is a God of law and gospel simultaneously. That he is both furiously angry with mankind and unbelievably merciful and loving toward mankind, at the same time. Not one or the other, but it’s both, and it’s not a mixing of the two to get a kind of a gray. It’s black and white simultaneously, and they only can be reconciled in the cross of Christ up on Calvary where he both punished mankind and forgave mankind in the same moment.
One of these many paradoxes, a seeming contradiction, is that we are simultaneously of earth and of heaven. At the same time we’re children of the world and children of God, simultaneously. We are both in time and our hearts are out of time at the same time. Both are true and we have to try not to go crazy while holding those contradictory thoughts.
On the one hand God would like us to work and build to save money, to invest, to plant trees, to build things as though the world were going to last another ten thousand years. At the very same time he wants us to be ready to fly home to heaven this afternoon. Now you might think that those would require keeping different operating directives in our lives. If I knew I was going to die this afternoon I would spend my time maybe in a different way than if I were trying to build something and had a long range forecast.
What I would do with my money if I were absolutely certain that I would be dead three hours from now would maybe be a different set of decisions than what I would do with my money if I knew I was going to live to be 105. And yet both of those are true, and God would like us to keep both of those things in our mind at all times.
We are both children of this world, we’re citizens of political kingdoms – a city, a county, a state, a nation – and we have leaders in society that God wants us to cooperate with. He wants us to be good citizens and good people in the community. He wants us to build our cities, our counties, our neighborhoods, our streets, our homes. But he also wants us to be mindful that we are citizens of heaven and that the way in which we make our decisions and the way in which we treat people will reflect that we have an eternal outlook.
And so the answer to the question about whether we are we citizens of this world or citizens of heaven is that we’re really both; both at the same time. And part of the fun of being a child of God is to pick our way through those two seemingly competing visions and do both, and do both well and with a smile.