I’m reading Philippians, my favorite text in the Bible. As I read it this time, I am focusing on reading theologically more than historically and linguistically. I am quite in sync with the theological interpretation of scripture, because it treats the scripture as scripture, not as simply another ancient text. The historical and language facets of interpreting the text are not ignored, but they are enhanced by this style of interpretation.
As I read Philippians I am referring to the commentary of Stephen Fowl (Fowl, Stephen E. Philippians. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005.) The Two Horizons series has the stated goal of doing theological interpretation, so I’m not only reading the text; I’m also learning how to do theological interpretation.
Concerning Philippians 1:27, “Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel …” (NRSV), Fowl said a couple things that made a lot of sense to me.
Clearly, Paul is not advocating violent opposition to the empire here. Nevertheless, he makes it very clear that the interests and aims of the church are different from and largely at variance to the interests and aims of the empire. (p. 61)
While Christians will need to discuss and discern together the concrete shape of a common life worthy of the gospel in the light of the particular secular orders they find themselves under, they must avoid thinking of themselves as holding dual citizenship. They have one Lord and serve only one master. (p. 62)
Fowl is putting his finger on the false hope many evangelical Christians place in politics. I know many Christians who are more interested in the political process and trying to elect conservatives than they are in living an authentic Christian life. Paul would not allow it.
We don’t have dual citizenship in the USA (mutatis mutandis) and the Kingdom. If we follow Christ, we follow Christ and anything else is at most secondary. We do our Lord a disservice if we put our hope elsewhere.
In essence, we must renounce our citizenship in our nation to follow Jesus.
I will follow Jesus.