Leisa McDonald – Global Events Coordinator
If you are like me, you are proud to be a citizen of the United States. But have you ever thought about what being a citizen means and what value it provides? Citizenship in the United States provides the freedom to hold a job, vote, travel and enjoy the opportunity to get an education. As an American, these rights are part of who we are, but because they are bestowed at birth, we often give little thought to what life would be like without the privileges citizenship provides.
Several years ago, on a trip to Beirut, Lebanon I was surprised to learn that citizenship is treated very differently in other countries. The driver on our trip was a 19 year old young man with a heart for the Lord and an active participant in the ministry we partnered with in Beirut. In the course of our time exploring the country and seeing the work of the ministry he shared his own personal story and how he came to be part of the organization.
Alex’s mother was Lebanese and his father was from the United Arab Emirates. Alex’s father left his mother before he was born. This left him not only fatherless, but without citizenship as well. As a woman, Alex’s mother cannot pass on her citizenship to her son and unless Alex’s father claims him as his own, Alex does not have a “country of origin.” What is the impact of not having citizenship for this young man?
Alex is not able to earn money as a Lebanese citizen. His wages from the ministry organization that “hired him” go to the government in exchange for his room and board. He has no papers, so he cannot travel out of the country. He is not a citizen of Lebanon, so he cannot pursue secondary education. In essence he is trapped in a country that does not consider him “one of their own.”
Most of us reading this blog cannot imagine what it feels like to not have a “home” within our country of birth… to not be able to travel, work, vote or carry the simple title of citizen. While we cannot comprehend Alex’s reality, many of us have felt the sting of “not belonging” at some point in our lives. We might be able to understand not being invited, included, or picked…the pain of being on the outside, the feeling of being different, left out, or excluded.
Whether we can relate to Alex’s situation of not being a citizen or our own feelings of not being included, the words from Ephesians 2:19 (Message version) can bring hope: “You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone.”
In God’s upper story, Jesus’s death and resurrection has enabled all who are willing to become citizens of heaven. No matter our citizenship status or our sense of belonging on earth, we will all feel at home in heaven!