Illegal alien. Perhaps those two words leave a bad taste in your mouth because you find it demeaning to talk that way about another human being. Maybe, though, you feel those words form an appropriately descriptive phrase for a person who has improperly entered or lingered in a country not their own. There are heated debates about what a country’s immigration policy should be and how it should be enforced. Starting or continuing that discussion is not the reason for calling our attention to those words.
Today let’s focus on a truth that we can all agree upon: There is a big difference between aliens and citizens. Citizens have rights and privileges that are not granted to aliens. Aliens are surrounded by a language and customs that are foreign to them, things that are altogether familiar to citizens. Aliens do not look like or sound like citizens. They often feel out of place, unwanted, and vulnerable. If they are from a nation that is openly hostile to their new home, they may feel hated and may fear for their safety.
The life of aliens can be difficult. But a far more grave situation is the one in which all people find themselves by nature: we are aliens and enemies of God “because of … evil behavior.” We sometimes reserve such terminology for the worst of the worst in our society. But the Bible clearly says that all sin, every breaking of God’s commands, is evil in his sight. Lying and lusting, hating and hurting, gossiping and grudge-holding, abuse and abdication of responsibility, drunkenness and dirty looks are all sin. Sin alienates us from God and his kingdom. Enemies of God rightly fear for their eternal safety.
But now listen carefully to what the apostle Paul says: “You were alienated from God … now [God] has reconciled you.” God stepped in to change our status with him. When we wanted and knew only hostility and war with God, he answered with a peace-making treaty. When we were the enemies of God, he acted towards us as a friend. When we were far from knowing and trusting God, he brought us near and gave us the full rights of citizenship. He did it by sending his only Son as Savior. Christ went to his own death with our sins on his soul to reconcile us to God, to make peace between the holy God and sinful people. Jesus rose again to secure our standing as first-class citizens. Through faith in him we stand without any blemishes that would mark us as unworthy of that status. In Christ we appear with the holiness that gives us a rightful place beside God. We need not fear any angry accusation from the King of heaven because Christ took every accusation warranted by our sin and removed it from his sight forever. What a change! What a gift from a gracious God! Rejoice, citizens of the kingdom of God, and live joyfully in the freedom and fullness of citizenship.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for making me a citizen in the kingdom of God because of the work of Jesus. Help me live confidently and joyfully as a citizen of your kingdom even as I live out my life on this earth. Amen.