“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” – Ephesians 2:19
Dear Saints, What does it mean to be “citizens with the saints”? Well, we know that saints simply means “holy ones.” The saints are the holy ones of God, claimed as his people through baptism, set aside to be representatives of Christ and reflect the image of God. We are saints, along with ALL others who claim Jesus Christ as Lord. So what does it mean when Ephesians says we are “citizens with the saints”? First and foremost it points to unity. With ALL other holy ones of God, we are united as fellow saints through One faith, One Lord, one Baptism.
In general, we know what citizens are. Citizens are those who reside together in the same city, state or nation. But we remember that in the 1st Century Roman Empire, citizenship had even greater meaning. St. Paul was a Roman citizen. That did not mean that he simply lived in the Roman Empire – many people lived under Rome without citizenship. Being a Roman citizen anywhere in the Empire meant belonging to the ultimate “in-crowd.” Roman citizens, as opposed to the others who dwelled in the Roman-occupied territories, enjoyed an elite set of rights, privileges and protections, guarded fiercely by Caesar and his forces.
Citizenship in the day of Paul afforded one legal standing, insider status, and most importantly freedom. Roman citizens were free in a way that slaves or occupied peoples were not. They had freedom to act, decide, and move as they chose. Being a citizen elevated you above the occupied and servile classes by leaps and bounds. So when the letter to the Ephesians reminds the reader that you are “citizens with the saints,” the context carries all that meaning to the fore. Fellow citizens are not just neighbors, they are inheritors of the rights, privileges and freedoms that you enjoy as a saint, a holy one of God.
As baptized people of God, we are inheritors of the Grace of God, the fellowship of the Spirit and the freedom that comes from Christ. So being fellow citizens with all the saints means that we share this inherited status with ALL who bear the name of Christ. Do we view other other Christians as not only members of the church, but shared inheritors of the kingdom? If we do, if we truly view ALL believers as equal heirs of the gifts of God, then our attitudes must reflect that. We must treat others in Christ with the respect, love and care that God has bestowed on us, no matter what differences or barriers this world may place between us.
We are the saints. We are one with ALL the saints. Whether they look like us, worship like us, speak like us, vote like us, or read the Bible like us, they are fellow citizens with us in the kingdom of Heaven, here on earth. And if we look to the future, they’ll be our neighbors in the next life too!
+ Pastor Kris and Pastor Ginger +