I am an immigrant. I left my homeland, India, more than eleven years ago and moved to America. I’m a “resident alien” in my adopted homeland. But I have been an immigrant for more than thirty years of my life.
When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior as a young girl, I became a citizen of Heaven. My salvation gave me a new identity, a new status that transcended my geographical location, race, or nationality.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all immigrants. We become foreigners to the world when we are born again. As foreigners, we are conscious of the transient nature of our lives on earth. We see the earth as the land of our pilgrimage, and not as our home, as our biblical forefathers did—”We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” (1 Chronicles 29:15 NIV).
Our destination is an enduring and glorious city. Heaven is our guaranteed home, where we will live forever, worshiping and serving Jesus, our King. But does that mean we live carelessly on earth? How does our immigrant identity affect the way we live right now?
Three distinct features mark the lives of citizens of Heaven.
We are purpose-driven
When we grasp the meaning of our citizenship in Heaven, our lives are infused with passion for our calling. God created us in His image to bring Him glory, to commune with Him, to conform us to Him, and to carry out His purpose on earth.
Our heavenly calling determines the course of our lives. It sets the agenda for our days, hours, and minutes. We devote all our energy and resources to accomplishing God’s plan for our lives. Our main goal for our sojourn on earth is to make our lives count, to create maximum impact for God’s kingdom.
We stand out
Jesus’ prayer for His disciples before His death emphasizes our “other-ness” in this world— “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 16: 15 NIV).
We do not belong to this world. We do not live by the world’s standards. Our lives look radically different since we adhere to biblical values. While people who view the earth as their home become entangled in earthly affairs and blend in with the secular culture, citizens of Heaven rid themselves of earthly attachments and hold fast to the Kingdom culture.
We persevere with hope
Our immigrant journey consists of not only mountains and green pastures but also valleys and harsh terrain. But trials do not deter us from staying the course. In fact, our problems can strengthen our resolve to follow and trust God.
An eternal perspective helps us persevere through suffering and persecution since we look beyond our momentary troubles to what lies ahead—”For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
The biblical heroes of the “hall of fame” in the book of Hebrews demonstrated strong faith in the midst of suffering, knowing that the best was yet to come and believing that they will be in a better place:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a Heavenly one…” (Hebrews 11: 13-16 NIV).
Unspeakable joy, unshakable hope, and inexplicable fulfillment are ours when we embrace our immigrant identity and our pilgrimage on earth. We can find the courage and strength to journey through life’s ups and downs by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the ultimate migrant who left Heaven and came down to earth to live and die for our sake.
To help you remember your immigrant identity, I’ve created a FREE desktop/mobile wallpaper for you.
(This article was first published in my newsletter).