What does it mean for us Christians to belong to a nation? What place does Singapore have in our hearts? For many of us who grew up here, it is a matter of personalised geography. Our lives have been written on the contours of this island.
As we drive past buildings and other places, we are reminded of various episodes in our lives. Changi Beach, Sembawang, Bras Basah Road, Singapore General Hospital, Farrer Park, Bukit Timah—these names act as triggers to bring into consciousness memories that make up the stuff of life.
Over the years, we have developed a special relationship with the land—an experience that was not unknown in biblical times; in fact, land was a very important concept in ancient Israel.
For such a relationship to develop between land and people, much quality time is needed. The unfortunate reality of modern life is that we are too mobile and live too fast. Things were quite different in an earlier age, when people were born, and lived and died in the same place. There was time to bond and identify with the land.
We may not be able to turn back the clock. Just as well, for after all, aren’t we Christians citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, pilgrims “just a passing through”? Our identity as Kingdom persons supersedes all other identities, including national ones.
As the apostle Paul declared, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). As human beings, we must be clear about our ultimate identities and not confuse what is eternal with what is transient and vice-versa.
Ironically, if we are clear about our ultimate identity as citizens of heaven, then we can be better citizens of an earthly nation. We will be able to understand more deeply our vocation as individuals and citizens within God’s vast eternal plan. It is this perspective that motivated biblical characters such as Joseph and Daniel to contribute significantly to national and social life in their times.
It was the same in the life of Christians like John Wesley whose ultimate identity as a Kingdom person gave vibrant life and effective meaning to his temporary identity as a citizen of an earthly nation. In his gospel ministry and social involvement, he contributed significantly to the well-being and transformation of his nation and community.
We must therefore strive to be good citizens of Singapore, serving our nation and community well in the light of our ultimate identity as citizens of heaven and followers of Jesus Christ. In Singapore, Christians occupy many significant positions of influence and service. We have the potential to influence our nation and society positively.
We often hear the term “servant leadership” used in the context of organisations. As we seek, as a nation, to be a “leader” in the community of nations, perhaps we can think of being a “servant leader”. This could be our national calling.
We are thankful for being part of this nation. We can cherish the fact that our life stories are interwoven with the history and geography of Singapore and the stories of its people. We must understand and experience this within the larger context of what God is doing in our lives and in this world.
Happy Birthday, Singapore. May God bless you to be a blessing to others. —Robert M. Solomon
Excerpted and adapted from Fire for the Journey: Reflections for a God-Guided Life by Robert M. Solomon. ©2002 by Robert M. Solomon. Used by permission of Armour Publishing. All rights reserved.
For more insights and reflections by Bishop Emeritus Robert M. Solomon, visit here.
Citizens of the Kingdom: Responding to Government as Christians. Understanding how to balance earthly and heavenly citizenship without compromising accountability to God has been an issue for many Christians since the beginning of human government. Discover how you can pray for persons in leadership, honour their authority, and respectfully disagree if necessary. Find out more here.