I got in some trouble last night – celebrating my freedom. There’s been a tradition at our house since the year we moved in, we invite friends over for the fourth of July and have a grill out and shoot off some fireworks. Seems like that’s what it means to be an American, right? I thought so too. Or perhaps I even still think so.
Only once (until last night) has this annual occasion proved dangerous, as a firework shot just under the leaping legs of a friend of mine (he’s fine), and exploded in the midst of the backyard. Last night, one of the bricks of fireworks fell over (and don’t tell my mom) shot at me and hit me in the toe. I bled a little but otherwise am fine. The worse part was that it shot towards the house, and exploded closer than the crowd would’ve liked. Again, everyone is fine, and we all learned a lesson about using cardboard boxes as a firing base for fireworks, but that also, is not the trouble I am referring to.
Because of our “close call,” we decided to move our fireworks party to the cul-de-sac in front of our house. More exactly, up the road to level, paved ground. This worked very nicely for the firework safety and for the viewing by our guests, but it did NOT work so well for our neighbor, who came over to inform us about her displeasure with us shooting off fireworks near her property. To be clear, we were not near a house or any other structure, and we were just on the road, not anyone else’s property, but apparently she had some animals in a field near where we were, and she was concerned about them, and so we had a neighborly chat, during which she informed me she disagreed with our decision to shoot off the fireworks, and I apologized and said we would be finished.
Some of you right now are upset with me for even shooting off fireworks to begin with, much less continuing after the first incident (hi mom). Others of you are perturbed with my neighbor for raining on our holiday fun and freedoms. Trust me, I didn’t even plan to write about it or reveal it but… I have felt ALL the feels on this entire situation, and I have come to a conclusion that the whole situation, I think illustrates a larger point I would like to make.
While I may have been well within my rights and normalities as an American last night, that is not the citizenship I am most concerned with. In his letter to the Phillippians, Paul writes this;
Philippians 3:20–21 (ESV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Turns out, that as a follower of Jesus, I am more than just an American citizen – I am a citizen of heaven. I belong to Christ first and foremost, and my behaviors and beliefs not only reflect more on that truth, and Him, than they do my earthly citizenship, but that truth also informs and instructs me on what they should be. So no matter what my rights are as an American, my behaviors should be dictated by my heavenly status.
For that reason, and a few others, this afternoon, I am going to present myself at the front door of my neighbor and apologize. Not just because I want to get along well with my neighbor, but because I want to represent Jesus well. I want people to see Him when they look at me – and I want for their impressions of people who follow Him to be positive. I truly believe that one of the most important things we can do as His disciples, is to bring people closer to Him, by making Him more attractive to them than everything else. If others can feel and see the difference in us, they will desire to know where it comes from and why we have it – and maybe, they will be drawn to it too.
We’re most likely done shooting off fireworks at the Steffen’s on the fourth of July (never say never). And I am hoping there aren’t any more when I go over to apologize later today. But I can tell you, that I will continue to celebrate the freedom I have through my relationship with Jesus with every neighbor I have. Whether they live down the street, way across town, or on the other side of the globe. And I’ll continue representing Him the best way I know how, by blowing up people’s preconceived notions of who He is, and showing them what being a heavenly citizen is really all about.