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Resident Aliens

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series

"Citizens and Exiles"

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There is a real sense in which Christians, analogous to Israel in exile, are dual citizens—resident aliens. Christians are first and foremost citizens of the redemptive kingdom, but they are also citizens of God’s Universal common Kingdom along with every other human being. And thus, Christians contribute to society, submit to and pray for governmental authorities, and participate in various aspects of cultural endeavors, as long as they reflect and remain consistent with God’s law.

Yet an individual Christian’s role in society is not connected directly in any way to God’s plan to establish his united kingdom on earth and restore all things. When a Christian acts in society, it is not out of a motivation to “redeem culture.” Only the “Last Adam” can perfectly fill the role God intended as King/Priest who exercises perfect dominion over all, and this will occur when he comes again.

The common evangelical view that ignores the biblical distinction between the Universal Kingdom and the Redemptive Kingdom has led to errant thinking about individual Christian work in society, and this usually takes one of two forms. First, for some, the only way to really serve the purposes and plans of God is what is sometimes referred to as “full time Christian service,” that is, being a pastor or missionary. Other vocations are of lesser value. The other form is actually growing in influence within evangelicalism, and that is to find value in cultural activity by insisting that it is “work for the kingdom,” which supposedly legitimizes what would otherwise be considered “secular” work.

Neither view is biblical, and only properly distinguishing between the two kingdoms provides a correct framework for understanding a Christian’s responsibilities toward both.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.