I lived overseas for nearly six years. It was a really interesting experience, and I loved it. Apart from many cultural differences, I had to adjust to the fact that I now lived under a different government with a different set of laws. I was confronted a few times with the reality that certain rules and laws I took for granted in my home country did not apply in my new home, and vice-versa. While I could have claimed, “But that’s not how we do it in Australia!” I don’t think that argument would have got me very far. That’s because when you live in a country you are subject to its laws, not the laws of another country.
When someone believes in Jesus, they change their spiritual address. It’s a bit like moving to another country—with a different culture, government, and laws—but even more dramatic than that. In Colossians 1:13–14, Paul says that God “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We have been transferred from one dominion or kingdom to another. While we once belonged to the rule of darkness, believers now belong to the realm led by Christ.
This change of spiritual address has been achieved by God’s rescue (colossians 1:13), through redemption and forgiveness of sins in Christ (1:14, “in whom”). The previous two chapters showed that being in Christ means that we are joined to him in a close spiritual relationship, and we share in his death, resurrection, and ascension. In him we are redeemed, forgiven, and rescued.
By dying and rising with Christ (see chapter two), God transfers us from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of his Son. When we die with Christ, we are crucified to the world (galatians 6:14), and are no longer under the power of sin (romans 6:2). When we rise with Christ, we are reborn into a new kingdom—the kingdom of God’s Son, a kingdom of light (colossians 1:12–13). So we see that our participation with Christ brings about our spiritual address change. We’ve undergone a cultural shift. The priorities of the sin-corrupted world (such as self-centeredness, pride, and wealth) aren’t part of our cultural fabric. Instead, we’ve been plunged into the culture of God’s kingdom, filled with kindness, self-giving, and love.
Some countries do not permit dual citizenship. If you want to be a citizen of Japan, for example, you are not allowed to be a citizen of any other country. I would need to give up my citizenship in order to become a citizen of Japan. That’s a bit like dying and rising with Christ. In order to be “reborn” in Jesus’s kingdom, I have to give up my membership in the domain of darkness. I must “die” in my home country and be “born again” in the new country. When the Bible says that we have died with Christ, it means that we share in his death and escape the old country—the domain of darkness. When we are raised with Christ, we are given citizenship in the new country—the kingdom of God’s Son.
Being a citizen in the new country means that we live in a different culture. The old culture was characterized by darkness, being governed by sin and death. It did not offer any real hope, security, or joy. Though we might not have realized how bad it was while we were in it, the contrast is made clearer once we have new life in the new culture. But the new culture is characterized by light (colossians 1:12), since it is governed by Jesus’s love, righteousness, and peace. Real hope is found there, along with true security and genuine joy.
Being a citizen in the new country means living under a different government. The old government of Sin and Death was literally out to get us! The rules were harsh and didn’t operate in our best interest. Sin made false promises that led to disappointment and disillusionment, while Death cast a big, dark shadow over our whole existence. Like the worst totalitarian regime, the old government mistreated its people and showed no mercy. But the new government is led by Jesus—the king who gave his life for us. He leads with mercy and compassion, and genuinely seeks our flourishing and wellbeing. Jesus’s promises are trustworthy and offer hope and fullness of life. This is a government we can love and respect. It’s a comfort and joy to live under its protection and care.
If you live long enough in another country, things begin to change. You start to behave more like the locals. You start to think like them. Your identity begins to shift as your new address becomes more like home. Your loyalty also begins to shift as your new home becomes more important to you than your old home. So it is once you’ve been transferred into the kingdom of Christ. Your new address changes the way you live, your thinking, your identity, and your allegiance. Your home with Jesus shapes who you are.
But sometimes living in another country causes conflict. Imagine watching your favorite event at the Olympics, and your old country is competing against your new country! Who do you hope will win? Even though you have a new home, there’s an emotional attachment to your old home. There’s a sense of loyalty to the place where you were born and grew up. Which place is really home—in your heart?
Every Christian’s allegiance to our new home is challenged every now and then. Maybe an unhealthy pastime from the old home pops up and we’re tempted to go back to it. Maybe the darkness tries to lure us back to secretive and dishonest practices. Maybe the old just seems more fun than the new sometimes. Feeling some emotional attachment to the old home is natural. But if we’ve died and risen with Christ, our allegiance must be to our new home. We’ve died to the old. We’ve been reborn in the new. If there’s a contest of loyalties, we need to remember that Jesus is our king. He’s rescued us from the darkness. Let’s not go back to living as though we’re still in it.
The key phrase here is under Christ. Dying with Christ means we’ve given up our old citizenship, and rising with Christ means we’ve taken up new citizenship. Through dying and rising with Christ, we’ve been rescued from the domain and darkness and brought into the kingdom of God’s Son. This kingdom is governed by Jesus, our loving and faithful King. We live a new life under Christ, characterized by life, love, and light.