Imagine: You’ve been living in a third world country for quite a while now. You know hunger, suffering, and what it means to want. One day, you receive a letter that explains, somehow things had gotten mixed up when you were born. You’re actually the child of a royal family in Europe. They wanted to make sure you were safe until they could come get you, so they purchased the entire country you now live in…and now rule over it as well. They are sending resources that where you live needs now, and sending them through you until they can come there themselves. How would you feel?
As I was growing up, there were always awards assemblies. I never did sports, and was never too academic after 5th grade. But one thing I’d always achieved was “good citizenship”.
I never understood much of what that meant. Today, I have a better understanding. I am a citizen of Decatur, IL. That means I strive to contribute to the well-being, orderly existence of, and future of our community. I pay my bills. I vote. I serve on the parking and traffic commission. I’m a good, active citizen.
Here’s some quick history: Philippians is a letter to the church in Philippi.
Almost 50 years before Christ, there was a civil war, “Caesar’s Civil War”. When the war had been won, you had several legions of soldiers out and about, and could not have those thousands and thousands returning to the city of Rome…it would be dangerous.
So the soldiers near Philippi, an already established Greek town on a well-worn path easily traveled to from Rome, were given land and resources to live there as citizens of Rome.
Years down the road, we find Paul in this city, which is full of descendants of those original Roman soldiers and their families. There may also be some there who are descendants of the original Greek residents, and who resent the leadership/rule of the Roman Empire.
For those who ARE Roman citizens, their citizenship came with certain rights, and expectations. Membership and participation in the Imperial Cult (viewing Caesar as divine, and Roman rule as given by God) was a part of their life.
But they also enjoyed certain rights, not available to all people.
The right to trial, to sue others and defend oneself.
They were exempt from local rules and regulations, deferring to the laws of Rome.
They were generally immune from some taxes and other legal obligations.
Legal protections if accused of a crime, could not be tortured or whipped, nor receive death penalty except for treason…but even then, could not be crucified on the cross.
Roman citizens represented and embodied the power, rule, order, and presence of Caesar in Philippi.
Come back tomorrow for more….