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Aliens, Foreigners and Exiles

Those of us who call ourselves Christians need to remember where our allegiance lies.  As much we we like to think of our particular location in a particular country as home, it really isn't.  Especially during this season when our own nationality and our responsibility as citizens are intensified, we need to view ourselves correctly--as foreign citizens, or "resident aliens."  

To draw upon an analogy from the Old Testament--and I'm going to use several in this piece--we are rather like Abraham, who was called by God to leave his home and go to another country that God would give him as his inheritance.  "He went without knowing where he was going," the writer of Hebrews recalled.  "And even when he reached the land God had promised him, he lived there by faith--for he was like a foreigner, living in tents" (Hebrews 11:8-9).

This doesn't mean we can't be productive and influential in the culture in which we live, but we have to always remember that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  I like what Gregory Boyd writes:

"Whatever opinions we have about how to solve society's problems, we are to remember always that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13).  Our allegiance, therefore, can never be to any version of the kingdom-of-the-world.  Our allegiance is to our heavenly Father, whose country we belong to and into whose family we've been adopted."

From time to time, our heavenly Father may call us to do something extraordinary in the culture, something that usually becomes clear after God has put us in a position of influence.  I can think of three examples that illustrate this.

Daniel was an exile from Jerusalem living in Babylon in the sixth century B.C.  Because God's favor was upon him, Daniel and his three friends--Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego--were elevated to prominent positions in an earthly kingdom.  God's idea was not for them to overthrow the government.  God used these brave and dedicated men to give this witness to the culture:  They served the one true God.  In order for this to happen, they had to undergo some serious testing.  Daniel spent the night with some hungry lions, and his three friends were thrown into the fire for refusing to worship the Babylonian gods rather than the one true God.  Not only did God preserve them, but he also set the stage for the eventual return of the Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem.

Esther was queen of Persia in the fifth century B.C. with access to the seat of power.  She was a Jew, which meant her husband the king didn't share her belief.  In fact, he ordered an edict that anyone who didn't worship him would be put to death.  The Jews living in this foreign culture couldn't worship him, so they were in danger of being annihilated.  In this dramatic story, God clearly put Esther into a position to help her people.  Knowing this, Esther's cousin, Mordecai, told her, "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).

Nehemiah also lived as an exile in Persia in the fifth century B.C.  Like Esther, he held an important position in the Persian Empire.  Because of his excellent work and unblemished integrity, Nehemiah gained the king's favor, so much so that the king allowed Nehemiah to return with his people to Jerusalem.  Even more, the king financed the expedition and granted him safe passage throughout the journey.

These three are examples of citizens of heaven living in foreign lands whom God used "for just such a time as this."  None of them condemned the culture.  None of them sat in judgment against the culture.  None of them used their relationship with God as an excuse to take over the culture.  They simply displayed the principle so beautifully stated by the apostle Peter, who also lived in a hostile culture and wrote to Christians scattered by persecution:  "Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters.  Fear God, and respect the king" (1 Peter 2:17).

At the same time, none of these God-fearing people bowed to the pressures of the culture.  They weren't absorbed by the culture and didn't let the culture press them into its mold.  They knew their true citizenship was in heaven, and their true King was God.  And they obeyed and followed him even when their own lives were at stake.

How different could our witness be before a culture and a country whose inhabitants sometimes look at us with disdain?  How much more of an influence could we have if we stopped trying to gain power, but instead made loving and serving God and others our primary concern? 

Comments

Well said.
doc

Amen Stan. I think the balance comes in your statement "They weren't absorbed into their culture". Unfortunately, today's church (with exceptions) has bent to the ways of the culture as a means of being light--in affect they put their light out. Sad.

Thanks for the wonderful reminder. Lord bless you!

P.S. Great things are happening on the other end--keep praying. Thanks. Teresa

I dig it, Stan. Well said.

Nick, you of all people know what it's like to be "a stranger in a foreign country." In fact, I think you're looking more like Abraham every day.

Good post Stan! See you Tuesday!

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.