I enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I can’t tell you which one of the four (soon to be five) that I like best because they’re all a ton of fun in their own right, and I’m not sure why that is. There’s just something fun about dressing up like pirates and sword fighting to epic musical scores. Not sure where the allure in that lies, but it’s there.
If you haven’t seen the movies, maybe you’d think the draw would be the fact that pirates have no rules. They can pretty much do whatever they want. And people who can do whatever they want have to be happy, right? That’s bound to be the way to find true joy is to be free from boundaries, free from ethics, free from all the traditional dos and don’ts of civilized society. But what I find interesting is that even bad, scary pirates from those movies have a code of conduct they keep to. True, they’re more like guidelines than actual rules, but it’s still a set code of how they’re supposed to behave, how they’re supposed to treat each other, and how they’re supposed to treat non-pirates.
So if even pirates have a code, wouldn’t it make sense for us to have one too?
Today’s verse is Philippians 1:27.
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.
I’m not sure why this is difficult, but I have my suspicions. Throughout the Bible, God says over and over again that believers are supposed to love each other and stand together and in that way we’ll show people who don’t believe that we’re different. We have an enemy in the world, who will stop at nothing to see us fail, and he wants nothing more than to take as many people down with him. So his goal is to tear us apart, set us at each other’s throats, and make us fight and split and break our relationships with each other. So instead of seeing the unified Body of Christ, all the world sees is fractured, squabbling factions of Bible thumpers who can’t agree on translations or what kinds of clothing we’re allowed to wear.
I’m bad at this. Because I just want people to read the Bible. I want Christians to stop making up their own rules, and I tend to react emotionally when faced with a believer who has fallen for the lies of legalism. But the truth is this: We are at a place in history right now where the Church needs to stand together more than ever before. We’re coming down to the end here, folks. There’s not much time left, and the last thing we need to be doing is fighting over denominational traditions.
If we agree on something, we need to focus on that. It’s all too easy to focus on where we don’t agree, but that doesn’t help us stand together, united with one spirit and one purpose like Paul beseeched the Church of Philippi to be.
What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? Well, if you believe in Christ and if you’re one of His followers, you’re already a citizen of heaven. But just because you’re a citizen of heaven doesn’t mean you’re already living like one. I know people who are citizens of America who don’t live like Americans. So what does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? Personally, I think he’s talking about getting along. And that’s not something the Church does very well anymore.
Having a relationship with Christ is freedom. That’s true. There are no rules we are required to follow. There are no standards that we have to meet in order to be worthy. But part of being a Christian is living like one, and while there are no requirements for worthiness, there is a code of conduct that a Christ-follower should submit to. And part of that is loving each other and finding common ground. And if the only common ground you can find is that you both believe that Christ died for your sins and that’s how you get eternal life, stand there. If nothing else, you are brothers or you are sisters in that. That’s the most important point, and if you agree on that, everything else is insignificant. Or at least, it should be.
Living a happy life isn’t a life without rules or boundaries. Actually, a life without rules and boundaries is the fastest way to be unhappy. We all have to know where the line is drawn. And standing together for the faith is a line.
So today, remember that if you belong to Christ, you need to be living like one of heaven’s citizens, which means you need to be getting along with your neighbors. Who knows? That old-fashioned religious person who you just can’t stop fighting with might end up in the mansion next door to you through all of eternity. So you’d better figure out how to get along now rather than later.