Citizens of heaven living as citizens on earth
If you are baptized, you are a citizen of heaven — your true home. The saints — the citizens of heaven who have arrived there ahead of us — are cheering us on! While the saints remind us of all we could be, more importantly they should remind us of all we are.
No matter where we are on the earthly political spectrum — Democrat, Republican, independent, or some other political affiliation — we need to stay connected to the primary Gospel truth regarding our Christian citizenship.
By virtue of our Christian Baptism, we are born into the family of God. It is an indelible reality that cannot be washed off our soul. It’s like spiritual DNA; we are born with it and it cannot change.
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit. … Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission. (CCC, 1213; see CCC, 1272–1274)
What is wrought by Baptism is a continual attachment to the Body of Christ and the Church.
St. Paul writes: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Note the present tense of Paul’s words. Our citizenship is in heaven. This is not a hypothesis; this is a reality.
Jesus prayed for his disciples (and future followers) before he died, coaching them in this holy dual citizenship between heaven and earth.
[Father,] … I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours. …
I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your Word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. (John 17:9, 15–20)
Indeed, “the first calling of the Christian is to follow Jesus” (CCC, 2253). And the Church, for its part, is not to be confused with the political community, yet it “respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen” (CCC, 2245).
Five duties of citizens
1. Be subject and collaborate with authorities. It is a Christian’s duty to voice “just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community” (CCC, 2238).
2. Contribute “to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.” Love and service of one’s country follows the larger duties of gratitude and charity. Good citizens ought “to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community” (CCC, 2239).
3. Take co-responsibility with authorities for the common good. Supporting the common good includes the moral obligation to “pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country” (CCC, 2240).
4. Welcome immigrants. Prosperous nations have an obligation to welcome foreigners seeking security or jobs that cannot be found in their country of origin. They have a natural right, as guests, to protection.
Authorities, for the sake of the common good … may make [immigration] subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. (CCC, 2241).
5. The right to refuse to follow laws that conflict with an upright conscience.
“Armed resistance to oppression” (CCC, 2243) is a last resort only when specific criteria are met.
The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). (CCC, 2242)
We are citizens of heaven with a dignity and a holy responsibility beyond our allegiance to the country listed on our passport. Let us “stand firm in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1).