In a recent article about George Schultz National Review’s Jay Nordingler describes a snippet of his interview with this former Secretary of State:
"At Schultz’s side is an illuminated globe, and this prompts me to ask him about a test he would give to new U.S. Ambassadors. ‘They’d been through all kinds of exams and so on – confirmation – and I’d say to them, "Well, there’s just one more test you have to pass. … You have to walk over to that globe and demonstrate to me that you can identify your country." And, inevitably, they would point to the country to which they had been assigned’
"The correct answer of, of course, was the United States – that was their country. And Schultz’s moral was, ‘Never forget what country you’re representing.’"
It’s telling that so many of the ambassadorial appointees would need to be reminded which country was their country. Their jobs were to represent the interests of the United States. Schultz’s exercise of this object lesson was an exclamation point at the end of a grueling Congressional approval process.
I flinched when I read about Schultz’s final test. For a flag-waving patriot such as myself, it does not come easy to admit that I am a citizen of a greater country than that of my birth.
In my head I know all the statements of Jesus and Paul about being citizens of a greater country, and sometimes my heart even goes there. But I am what I am, and I know there is honor in loving the people who are my neighbors and countrymen. The Apostle himself said of his countrymen:
"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel." (Romans 9:2-4 NIV)
But then I recall the same guy saying this:
"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV)
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:20 NIV)
In Hebrews we read about the heroes of the Old Testament:
"They admitted that they were aliens 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. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV)
And Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)
The kingdom they describe will never disappoint us, and while we may be citizens of whatever political entity is ours by birth or choice – and those nations deserve our respect – our eternal citizenship lies elsewhere. That is the greater country we must represent to a world increasingly foreign to who we are.