Read Acts 22
Focus on verse 25-26
The benefits of citizenship are dependent to some extent on what nation one is a citizen of. American citizenship is prized quite highly by many of the people who live here. Most are citizens by birth, but many are citizens by choice. There are also those like myself who live in America legally as permanent residents, and quite a number in certain parts of the country who the politically correct would call “undocumented” citizens – which really means they are not American citizens at all, and are living in the country illegally.
In the days of the Roman Empire, Roman citizens had certain rights that other citizens of the empire did not have. This was particularly important when it came to how one was treated when arrested. In today’s reading the Apostle Paul uses his rights as citizen of the Roman Empire to avoid a flogging.
But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” (v. 25-26)
While it was entirely within the legal right of Roman Centurion to shackle, imprison and/or beat non-Roman citizens for pretty much any reason, There were laws in place to protect citizens from this kind of treatment. It is for this reason that the Centurion and the Tribune become concerned when they hear that Paul is a citizen of Rome. They had already crossed the line by putting him in chains, and they almost had him flogged without a trial.
While it is a wonderful thing to be the citizen of a free and prosperous nation such as Canada or America, those of us who follow Jesus lay claim to a different kind of citizenship that carries some important benefits as well. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are not only granted forgiveness of the sin we have committed in our lives, but we are also blessed with the right to spend eternity with God in heaven. Only citizens of the kingdom of God will be granted these rights. Fortunately, becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom is not a complicated process. It is available to anyone who chooses to believe and follow Jesus Christ, so really everyone potentially has access to it. Only those who reject the truth about Jesus and refuse to follow will be turned away. These will face the consequences of that choice by being denied access to God’s kingdom of heaven. As always the choice is ours to make.