Because I’m a masochist and glutton for punishment, every now and then I peruse The Gospel Coalition website. And then I tell myself, like the borderline alcoholic or drug addict, to never, ever, do that again. But I still do. Oh, well. We all have our struggles.
And I came across this essay. Now, in all fairness, the author makes many good and sound (in my opinion) theological and cultural points. Christians are indeed sojourners; we are exiles in this age, in the time between times, the secular, the marking of movements around the sun that correspond to the time of the Incarnation and the Second Coming of Christ.
The author writes:
“Perhaps it is only in the last few years in the United States that we have finally faced that what the Bible says is true: in this world we really are sojourners and exiles (1 Pet. 2:11). That reality has been clouded and obscured by the size and legal protection of the church in most of the Western world. But this world is not actually our home.”
Well, yes and no. We are certainly sojourners and exiles (no matter our temporal citizenship) and we are protected by law or privilege (especially if we are white, male, and Christian), but this world (not simply our nation) is our home. Perhaps not this current broken version, but it’s still our home. If my existing home is renovated and is entirely new again or finally the version of its best self, it is still the same home in which I was already living.
The Promised Land we travel toward, isn’t some place “up there,” but a new earth, right here. As the writer of Hebrews noted, we are looking “forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” But that city will be here.
We are not exiles waiting to escape this planet, this home, whether through death or some mythic “rapture.” We are exiles working and praying the Lord’s Prayer to the end that God’s “…Kingdom come…on earth…” New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has some wonderful observations in this area.
We pray for the Kingdom to come here; we don’t pray for a path somewhere else. Being saved isn’t about escaping, it’s about the redemption, renewal, and creation of a new heaven and earth, a new cosmos, all of which we participate and are a part.
This has profound implications. One reason for the environmental catastrophe we are witnessing is because too many Western Christians understand “subduing” the earth in an exploitative, destructive, and violent way. Rather than living in harmony with creation, we treat it like some dead thing we can use and will be gone soon anyway.
We are cavalier about attempts to actually allow the Kingdom of non-violence, justice, peace, and a preference for the “least of these,” to truly “come” into this world and instead opine that things will only get worse, the end is nigh, so let’s throw up our hands, stock up on crap, and wait for our ticket out of here. It is why understanding the idea of Kingdom Come is critical to every area of life.
Contrary to any hymns or contemporary Christians songs, this is our home. We may be exiles and our homes may be tents and caravans for now, but that city will eventually materialize before us over the horizon and we will find Sabbath rest. And the paradox of being exiles in this world has to with tribes, nations, ethnicities, shared history, and other temporal boundaries or limits, but it doesn’t mean we don’t sink down roots if we can.
Thus, we live into that goal and the Lord’s Prayer. Wherever we are, we plant trees and flowers (metaphorically or otherwise). We cultivate gardens. In harmony with nature, we build and improve the area for the benefit of our future heirs and neighbors. We also join with the community and ask, “how can we help—what do you need?” We should leave every place better than we found it, especially if we never leave that place.
Because that’s what you do when you are home.
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Image by Anja