I’ve written about this before, but it is worth considering again. Do we take our citizenship for granted? Are we proud to be a citizen of the United States (or another country)?
Our children were born in Papua New Guinea, but they became U.S. citizens because Joice and I were, and we could prove it. We sent the records of their births and our passports to the U.S. consulate in Australia, and they were (eventually) granted citizenship and issued with passports.
Much later, our son Kirk married Christine, an Australian, and he applied to be a citizen of Australia as well. It was not automatic and cost money, but he is now officially a citizen of both countries and has passports from each.
Joice’s father was British, and he became a U.S. citizen by “naturalization.” He married Joice’s mom, a U.S. citizen, and became a lawful resident of the U.S. He had met the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Every day there are thousands of people who would like to become citizens of the U.S. To do so is often a long and sometimes painful process, so many people try to come into the U.S. illegally, although they (for the most part) would like to become legal citizens. Some young men and women can become U.S. citizens once they serve for a length of time in the military.
There are several requirements to becoming a U.S. citizen: You must be at least 18 years old, have resided at least three months in the state from which you apply, demonstrate a knowledge of English and some U.S. history, take an oath of allegiance, and be a lawful permanent resident.
It presently costs about $725 for the process, which includes a $85 “biometric fee.” A “green card” can cost between $1200 and $1760, which allows a person to reside and work in the U.S. However, the cost can be up to $3,000. If a person has the good luck to find a financial sponsor, the fee is lower, but the sponsor must make at least $24,050 annually. The citizenship process is generally not quick or cheap.
There are four ways to obtain U.S. citizenship: by naturalization, by marriage, by means of your parents, or by service in the military. You only need one!
There are, of course, advantages to being a citizen: You have the right to vote, you will not be deported, you can bring your family to the U.S., and you can hold a passport.
Paul and Silas were beaten by Roman soldiers (Acts 18:37ff), who did not realize that the two men were Roman citizens. Once Paul claimed citizenship, they were immediately granted freedom, but Paul appealed on this basis: “I am a Jew and a citizen of a large city. I am from Tarsus in the country of Cilicia.” The captain in charge was afraid and said that he had to pay a lot of money to become a Roman citizen. Payment for citizenship was part of the procedure for aliens.
As gentiles we were “grafted in” to become part of God’s family, but “From now on you are not strangers and people who are not citizens. You are citizens together with those who belong to God. You belong in God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19). We are now “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20 and Hebrews 12:23). We are not citizens because we served in the military or because our parents were citizens of heaven. We are there by the invitation of the Son and the grace of God.
Once a person becomes a citizen, there are privileges and responsibilities. In a democratic country, citizens can vote in local and general elections, and they can assume responsibilities in community or broader leadership. This system of responsibility and representation is what we expect in a democracy. In 22 countries around the world, it is mandatory to vote and, in some, to serve in the military. In Australia failure to vote can result in a fine.
A book I read years ago was called “The Man Without a Country.” It is a fictional story of an American army lieutenant who renounces his country during a trial for treason and is sentenced to spend the rest of his days at sea. He is “stateless” and can never go back to his native America, but he can’t go anywhere else either—a chilling prospect for anyone. The story reminds me that citizenship is to be valued and appreciated.
However, because I am a citizen of heaven, the privileges and responsibilities are much greater than for my earthly citizenship.