On the 9th of August, Singapore celebrated its 58th National Day. In fact, a few countries in Asia also celebrate their national day in August. Each country celebrates the commemoration of independence from colonial rule and mark self-government thereafter. Each National Day is marked by display of military might and a speech given by the leader of the nation to review the past, analyze the present issues facing the country and share plans to bring the nation forward through the vision of the nation.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Speech for 2023 praised the young nation’s spirit that has shone through the challenges and strengthened the people to greater unity. He is confident that this spirit will continue to hold the people together even amidst troubling times. He talked about good government, trust, integrity, and the future of the nation in the hands of the upcoming leaders who share the same vision. Good governance means maintaining the trust and integrity by being transparent in keeping the government free from corruption and wrongdoing. To ensure this, and for the people to continue keeping their trust in the government, some leaders had to resign, some had to take leave, some are being investigated. He added, “Singaporeans have come to expect this of us, and so have our international partners.” And stressing the need for every citizen to work together for the good for the shared future, PM Lee ended on a positive note of unity between the people and government which gives Singapore the edge over other nations.
As I listen to the speech, I cannot help but think about Paul’s letter to different churches where he exhorts believers on different matters. As any ‘good’ leader would exhort the nation, Paul exhorts the believers through encouragement, prayer, instructions, and his honest take on issues facing the different churches. And he points them to Christ who has truly granted them freedom from sin and the bondage of the evil one.
If National Day is a day to commemorate independence and freedom from foreign rule, as believers we celebrate our freedom from the old life that we live before we met Christ. We celebrate our new life in Christ everyday although we may or may not be conscious about it.
Paul writes in 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Just as any nation would not go back in time to live under the foreign rule but move forward in freedom and do things differently, believers who are in Christ are new citizens of heaven. And there are expectations that come with the new life. We put on the new self which is being renewed after the image of Christ. We all expect high standards from people who hold high positions and rightly so because they have been entrusted with duties in accordance with their caliber and position. When there is conflict of interest, breach of trust or mismanagement, action is taken to keep the system clean just as Singapore recently did.
Likewise, if our lives are not in accordance with the standards put in place by our Lord Jesus Christ, we must make every effort to come to the Lord in repentance and do away with the old ways of sin. “The old is gone” is not merely a sentence. It is a way of life. In our baptism, we die to sin and rise with Christ. With God’s spirit enabling and guiding us, we can die to our old selfish ways and move forward to live the abundant life that Christ has promised.
We are not saved merely to live as individuals and in isolation. We are saved to be ambassadors for Christ! Paul continues in verse 20a, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.” Ambassadors or ministers are expected to live by the standards and expectations that comes with the office. Likewise, the world expects us believers to live according to the standards put in place by God in his holy word. Not only are we expected to be like Christ as individuals but also as a community of believers.
While we live as different nationalities in this side of the world, believers all share citizenship in heaven! Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2: 12-13 reminds us, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We were once strangers, without hope and without God but now through the blood of Jesus Christ, we have become one in Christ – one faith, one Lord and one baptism. Ephesians 2:19 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” How wonderful it is to know that we all belong together in this household of God and share our citizenship with other believers too! Even as we live on this earth, we pray that His kingdom come and His will be done in and through us. And as we live as ambassadors for Christ, the Holy spirit will enable and strengthen us because Christ has died for our sins!
We take comfort in knowing that our God is a God of second chances as we have heard from the preaching through the book Jonah. Jonah messed up his first mission trip but God gave him a second chance as He gave the people of Ninevah a second chance too. God is concerned not only for the nation but also for the life of the ambassador or the messenger.
May our lives and individuals and as a church bring glory to God wherever we are planted.