We Are All Fugitives and Refugees East of Eden

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Have you ever lived out of a suitcase? It isn’t easy. I can only imagine what it must be like for a refugee, who is fleeing one country in search of another, only to be held back from entering upon arrival.

The closest I have gotten to this state of affairs, and it isn’t even close, is when we were in search of work overseas in the late 1990’s. A promising opportunity and invitation to interview for a position (all expenses paid) took our family to the Far East, only for the door to close quite unexpectedly. However, due to various circumstances, we were stranded there for a few months. Finally, our little boy said to my wife and me, “Let’s go home.” But we had no home. We were living out of suitcases there, as well as in the States, having just finished doctoral studies in England. All I will say about what transpired overseas is that we were caught in the crossfire between warring parties on an issue unrelated to our candidacy. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and no one got a job. Fortunately, or providentially, someone offered us a place to stay upon our return to the States until we could find a home.

Many people living as refugees may feel as pawns caught up between warring factions and stranded at sea. There is a sense in which spiritually speaking, we are all refugees. We are all fleeing one state of affairs and seeking to find a home at a place called “Elsewhere.” What am I referring to?

Like Cain of old, whom John Steinbeck brought to life again in his classic novel, we are all living east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). Cain was “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” for having killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4:12). While we may never have killed anyone, Jesus says that anyone who has looked upon someone with murderous thoughts is in grave danger with God. Jesus declares:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22; ESV).

There is a lot of such ‘murderous’ talk and thoughts bouncing about these days due to political and religious upheaval and warfare. Spiritually speaking, according to Christian Scripture, we are all caught up in this warfare and all wandering east of Eden, albeit of our own making.

In our moralistic thereapeutic deistic age, we tend to think we are basically okay; we just have to keep our acts together. If we do, God will show up when we need him and bless us so we can live happy lives behind the white picket fences lined with roses and neatly groomed homes and lives, like in the movie American Beauty.

But that’s not the way the Bible frames the movie of our lives. We often hide behind our murderous thoughts and little white lies, all hunkered down, even though we are sometimes running scared deep inside. Some of us may be seeking to get away with nowhere to go, or are just trying to get by. How many of us are really moving forward in life with some measure of hope that we will find our way home?

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