by doing good
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…
…whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
For this is the will of God
…that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Honor everyone…Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17
Embracing Exile

This article was originally written in June 2019.

Unfairness–real or perceived–gives us no platform to respond in with unfairness, unkindness, and untruthfulness.  

It has been both fascinating and frustrating over the past 12 years or so, watching presidential elections and the commentary surrounding two Obama presidencies and this most recent Trump presidency.  During Obama’s first campaign I was surprised and discouraged by much of the commentary I heard coming from Christian circles—there was clearly fear and uncertainty at work, among other things.  What I have seen and heard since Trump became President, though, has gone completely off the rails. So much of this boils down a question of the connection between state (or empire) and the Christian community.  I shake my head and, at times, feeling great remorse at the way those who carry the name of Christ speak of, and act toward, those who do not share their priorities, worldview, and faith.

Just prior to writing this I was listening to an NBA podcast and the topic of Muslim players fasting during the NBA playoffs came up.  The guest spoke for more than 20 minutes about the intricate details of Muslim faith and the decision whether or not to fast during the basketball season.  While I found it interesting, I also thought to myself, “It would have been deemed inappropriate, at best, to have had a discussion about whether NBA players ought to play basketball on Sunday, or some other discussion that would have been labeled as “Christian.”  Is it fair?  No, it’s not.  But perceived unfairness gives us no platform to respond in with unfairness, unkindness, and untruthfulness.

I am growing more and more convinced that Christianity doesn’t work well—or at least as it should—when tied with the yellow-brick-road of power.  It’s like biscuits and gravy flavored ice cream; two things that should be put together.  Could it be in America that the church has no idea how to live and work and function apart from the power, favorable legislation, and wealth that it has enjoyed for so long?  It seems to me this may be the case

“Embracing exile is not a pause in the missional purpose of God’s people. Embracing exile may, in fact, be setting God’s people free to rediscover their true mission and the powerful reasons for their divine creation in the first place.”   

Daniels, Exile, Kindle location 1218

My biggest concern and question for the church in America today goes something like this—if our attempts to maintain some semblance of Christendom in our national power and legislative structures become our mission and purpose, do we only end up looking like the bullhorn brigade outside the Rose Bowl? 

Do these efforts please God, or do we do more damage than good to our witness?

Are we losing our saltiness and snuffing our these little lights of ours?

Is our primary purpose to uphold and defend the Kingdom of American and its perceived Christian roots and ideals, or is our mission to live out the “alternative way ” of the Kingdom of God in our world no matter what the political, social, and economic climate? 

No doubt, some have trouble distinguishing between the two Kingdoms, but Jesus was clear, “No one can serve two masters”  (Mat 6:24).

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This article was originally presented in a class and was responded to by other students.  I have reproduced a few of those responses below:

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Response from K:  “I’m just trying to sin as little as possible before I can go to heaven.” This disposition, while on the surface could be seen as righteous, has damaging consequences on mission and witness when people begin to think, for example that there is no point in working if this will only get worse until it all burns.

You pointed out clearly how this affects eschatology, ecclesiology, and soteriology.  Each of these have a clear connection to the way we live in this world and the way the church carries out its mission.  Thank you for the clear reminder.

          My response to K:  Thank you, K, for this great response.  Like you, I appreciate the message of hope conveyed by Daniels that is appropriate for all believers in every place at all times, regardless of how we interpret the metaphor of “exile” used in this book. In Genesis we also see the reality of the human dilemma and, by extension, the reality of the church; that is, all the good that God created was changed drastically by this thing we call sin.  The perfect paradise of Eden was no longer.  The perfect Shalom between God and humanity, and between Adam and Eve (and by extension all humanity) was broken.  The world is not as it should be…and this is the world where we live and breath…this is the context of our lives. 

It’s not perfect.  It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  We are in exile from Eden, so to speak, and always have been.  But there is hope; a hope that cannot and will not be quenched.

          Follow-up reply from K :  I am amazed at how often in the last 10 months the story of Genesis has come to meet me in the study of his word.  As I have the opportunity to lead women’s ministries the word “believe” has been the pinnacle in planning and preparations.  It started with studying Genesis 3, Eve was presented the first question in scripture: “Did God really say?”  I believe that is the question the enemy used first and it has been his gaming question since. 

In this book, Embracing Exile, Daniels mentions the importance of imagination .  It can be used for our good or our harm.  When the enemy gets us to imagine that what God says isn’t really true then we are in trouble. Eve doubted and sin entered the world and every time we doubt what God really says we open up the opportunity for the gap (separation) of the broken humanity to pull us away from the path to which we are called.   

Women are so good about forgetting, or just not believing, what God really does say about them. Of course, it’s not just women who have this problem!  The enemy was able to get Eve’s imagination off track even in the “perfect paradise of Eden” that you mention.  Adam proved himself to be no better.  How much more is the struggle to not truly believe what God has said in our broken world that is not at all what it was designed to be.

Scripture

As the church, we ought to so immerse ourselves into God’s saving story in Acts 1-4 that we know “how to live authentically in ways that carry the great story forward.

The tradition folklore of the Asian country where I live is full of crazy, fantastic stories about gods and spirits and wars that somehow resulted in the thousands of islands that make up this nation.  If you ask people if these stories are historical realities—did they really happen?–they will answer clearly, “Of course not, they are legends.”  But if you ask them if the stories are true, they will answer, “Yes, of course,” and then explain clearly the deep foundational truths that are contained in the stories.  They are “untrue” stories that are chock full of truth that have been passed down generation after generation.

I once told a group of students that “God teaches people using ‘untrue’ stories,” and then paused, taking the opportunity to watch their faces.  “Are you saying the Bible isn’t true?” a student finally asked.  “Not at all,” I replied, “I believe the Bible to be both true and trustworthy, but we can also see clearly that Jesus taught deep and difficult truths by telling parables, stories that have no historical basis.  They aren’t true in the way that most people use that word today.”

I am convinced that the opening chapter of Genesis comes to the people of God in this pattern because they wanted their children to interpret the world God created through the three words of separation, filling, and blessing.

Daniels, Exile, Kindle Locations 398-399

I love it when Scripture comes alive and the truth behind the words is seen in a new and deeply meaningful way, far more meaningful than simply the face-value of words on paper.  My faith has been strengthened and deepened in recent years through a desire to find the truth of Scripture through the story being told.  I really appreciate how Daniels points out the metanarrative of separation, filling, and blessing that is found below the surface of the creation story in Genesis 1. The more I read Scripture, understand its context, and begin to better understand how ancient writers wrote and the tools they used to convey meaning, the more the Bible comes alive and the story of God, the story of Israel, the story of Christ, the story of the church, and our story that we are living out in the here and now take on new significance and weight. 

In cross-cultural ministry I am working with a young man who is trying to build relationships with non-Christian-background people.  Early on I told him to start by telling the Old Testament story of creation, but don’t go immediately to sin.  “Spend a little time in the goodness of creation,” I told him.  Having grown up in a typical evangelical church where “sharing the gospel” meant “talking about Jesus,” he wasn’t too sure why we would waste time in Genesis.  After meeting with one particular man with whom he had been sharing regularly, this young man came and shared with me how excited that man has been to read the first two chapters of Genesis.  I wanted Jonah to begin in Genesis 1 to give him an opportunity to talk about a personal, creative, loving God that created this world for a good purpose and plan.  What I hadn’t thought about it explicitly, before reading these chapters from Exile, was that this young friend of mine was also introducing a new story to his friend—new foundational understandings of God and our existence in this world.  And this happens whether or not we view Genesis as literal, historical reality.  It’s full of truth, regardless.

I can only answer the question “What am I to do?” if I can answer the prior question “Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?”

Alasdair MacIntyre

Of which story am I a part?  Daniels explains briefly some of the stories prevalent in the West—success, nation, humanist, to name three. Part of the transformative power of exile is that it forces us to re-center our story.  When the path to easy success is littered with obstacles, then what?  When nation is finally seen to not be the mirror image of the Kingdom that we wanted it to be, where do we turn? 

As the church, we ought to so immerse ourselves into God’s saving story in Acts 1-4 that we know “how to live authentically in ways that carry the great story forward.” What story am I telling with my life? What story is our church telling through it interactions with each other and the world? Where is balance between “becoming all things” (1 Cor 9:19-23) and remaining distinctively different?

 

For further reflection, please see:

Daniels, T. Scott  (2017-02-26). Embracing Exile: Living Faithfully as God’s Unique People in the World (Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition).

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This article was originally presented in a class and was responded to by other students.  I have reproduced a few of those responses below:

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Response from R:  ” I am nervous that although we can articulate who we are suppose to be in the world, we really have a hard time living into it. I believe we struggle with this because we miss empire. We miss the power. And the truth is we cannot chase after God and empire too.”

My response to R:  You nailed the crux of our human weakness on the head. We know intellectually what we should be doing; it’s fairly easy to put it into words and not all that hard to explain.  But actually doing it?  That’s the hard part.  Being part of the empire is rather easy…but easy makes lazy.  Life in the kingdom brings with it power and authority…but Jesus, himself, told us to go lower and empty ourselves.  Life in the kingdom comes with safety and security…but life in the kingdom is reflected in the question Susan posed to Mr Beaver–

Is Aslan quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

”Safe?”  said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

How is the church to live, move, and breath as as a church in exile?

The Church in Exile

Although exile is a prominent theme throughout the Old Testament, it has not generally been a lens through which the history of the church has been interpreted.  In his book Embracing Exile; Living Faithfully as God’s  Unique People in this World, T. Scott Daniels presents a thesis centered around the idea that the church, particularly the American, church, is in the process of being exiled.  Indeed, he argues, it has been for quite some time.  In this brief reflection I will argue that Daniels is correct—

the church is in a state of exile

—but not in exactly the same way as he envisions in his book. In recognizing the state of exile in which the church exists, there are both dangers and opportunities that must be recognized.

What is Exile?

Daniels explains from the beginning some of the ways in which the metaphor falls apart. These are important to recognize, but there is one additional aspect of this important metaphor that needs to be addressed.  Mainly, exile means that we have left one place—either by force or by choice—and now exist in another. 

The underlying implication is that the place left behind represents what should be, the place where all is right, and that the place of exile is less-than-ideal, the place where what should be is not.

In the same way, to understand that the the church in America is entering a period of exile has two basic implications.  First, that the cultural, political, and religious context of the past, and the way in which the church functioned in this context, was the ideal, the way things ought to be.  Second, the cultural, political, and religious context in which the church is feeling exiled is not ideal, not the way things ought to be.

Madeleine L’Engle wrote, in The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth, that

…we are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.

The faithful people of God are in exile and always has been.  In Genesis, after God separates, fills, and blesses as described by Daniels in chapter two of Exile, sin enters through the disobedience of humanity.  The perfect paradise of Eden was no longer available. The perfect Shalom between God and humanity, and between Adam and Eve, was broken.  The world was no longer as it should have been, as it was created to be. This is the world in which we live.

Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden and into the less-than-ideal world where sin works to break all that was good.

Their exile is our exile. This is the world in which church exists today, as it always has—as a people of God in exile.

As Peter reminds us,

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession”

1 Peter 2:9

Therefore, he continues,

I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desire, which wage war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Peter 2:10

Past generations were not more perfect or less broken by sin.  The exiled reality of the church was a truth then as it is now.  The difference now is that in the past the prominent and respected place of the church within the cultural, economic, and religious context of America made the reality of exile difficult to see. Comfortable people have a hard time seeing what it really happening all around them. Today, the clouds are clearing, the support systems are crumbling, and the plot of America’s cultural narrative is shifting. 

A new reality is dawning for the church and it feels uncomfortable and frightening…

…but it’s not the reality of exile that is new; rather, the reality of a Christian-friendly cultural milieu is rapidly fading into the past.

The dangers of exile

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:26

The first danger of exile is seen in the church that forfeits itself to the world in which it exists. I have raised my children outside of the American context, so Daniels words regarding the loss of identity make sense–

The book of Daniel recognizes that if the Judeans weren’t careful, at some point their children would cease to be Judeans living in exile in Babylon and would instead become Babylonians who attended the synagogue on occasion

Daniels, Exile, Kindle location 1078

In raising my children, I don’t want them to cease to have any sense of their American identity or their connection to their passport country–that cultural and national identity of their parents, grandparents, and home church.  In the same way,

…the church in exile must not lose sight of its home country—the kingdom of light of which God’s people are citizens. 

The cultural values of this kingdom define who we are, form the foundation of our faith, and inform our practices. We may not see it clearly yet, but the process of discipleship brings us to a deeper understanding of the values and ideals of our “home country” (the heavenly household of God). Yet, our day-to-day existence is lived out in a foreign kingdom of exile. 

For me, that foreign kingdom is my passport country of the United States. Your foreign kingdom might also be your passport country or some other earthly national identity that is most comfortable for you–your “home.” The closer we come to Christ, however, the greater our awareness of the foreignness of our earthly home, our “comfort place,” our God-given national identity.

Just as Jesus was a man very much shaped by his earthly geographic, cultural, economic, and religious context, so we are a product of the context of our particular corner of the globe.  To keep our home country (the new heaven and new earth promised in Scripture) always in sight takes no small amount of effort. As such,

…the first great danger of exile is that we begin to look more and more like the place of exile and less and less like Christ. 

In doing so the church is no longer separate from the world.  As a result, the church then loses its opportunity to fill and be filled by the Spirit and to be a blessing to the nations. In the world of missions this is known as syncretism, a melding together of spiritual truth with cultural and philosophical values to the point where they can no longer be distinguished one from the other.  As an American I was taught to carefully avoid syncretism in overseas ministry, but no one ever mentioned that my passport country, itself, may be one of the best of examples of near perfect syncretism in the world today!

A second danger lies on the opposite end of the spectrum; that is,

…while living in exile, the people of God fail to fill the earth with God’s glory while also failing to be a blessing to the nations,

…not because they identified too closely with world, but rather because they have separated themselves to the point of losing all meaningful impact and influence. N.T. Wright comments about the sort of “fortress mentality” in Surprised by Hope:

First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present?  As long as we see Christian hope in terms of “going to heaven,” of a salvation that is essentially away from this world, the two questions are bound to appear as unrelated.  If the Christian hope is for God’s new creation, for “new heavens and new earth,” and if that hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth, then there is every reason to join the two questions together.  Christian hope is surprisingly different from what they had assumed and that this same hope offers a coherent and energizing basis for work in today’s world.  

In other words, the second danger of exile is that life in this world becomes meaningless; nothing more than separation and withdrawal from the world, in such a way that the life of the church has no meaningful impact or influence in the community. As a result the church loses its ability to be filled with Spirit and to be a blessing to the nations. 

Opportunities in Exile

The great opportunity in exile, from the perspective of Missio Dei (God’s mission and purpose for God’s people) can be seen clearly in the words of Jesus,

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”

Matthew 15:16

While the church waits for its return to the home country, there is ample opportunity to bless the world in which we currently live.

In 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter writes,

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.  

Not only is the church expected to “live properly” among the not-yet-believing community in which it exists, but to do so in a way that bring glory to God from the lips of unbelievers. 

The lives of those who are called the church bring glory to God while being appropriately different than the surrounding culture but yet actively and meaningfully engaged at the same time.

Paul, writing to the Colossians, states,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 2:5-6

Clearly, for Paul, the life of the church in the greater community was of great importance; particularly the way they communicated with outsiders.  The assumption for Paul is that the church will be engaged with the culture and community in which they exist, and in doing so have the opportunity to do good, speak grace, and be, as Jesus taught, the salt of the earth—

…a valuable, meaningful, preserving influence in the world.

Finally, in the fifth chapter of his letter to church in Colossae, Paul adds,

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”

Colossians 5:9-11 (italics mine)

For Paul, it is not the place of the church to build walls and isolate themselves from the surrounding culture and influence; rather, while living in the world the church must insure that its story remains clear, relevant, unwaveringly full of grace…and filled with love. 

Conclusion

The church has always been in exile—all is not as it should be, hope for return to the home country remains yet unfulfilled, and even in the best of cultural, economic, social, and religious contexts, the church has, is, and will continue to face dangers and uncertainties at every corner.  While the particular state of exile may differ from one village to the next, one nation to the next, or even one continent to the next, all face the same basic dangers–syncretism on one extreme and absolute irrelevance on the other. Each, as well, has within reach the same foundational opportunities–to be the wellspring of grace, hope, and life as they walk the way of Christ while inviting others on the journey.

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Bibiography

Daniels, T. Scott. Embracing Exile: Living Faithfully as God’s Unique People in the World.  Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2017.

L’Engle, Madeleine.  The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth.  Chicago: Shaw Books, 2002.

The Holy Bible, New International Version.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.

Wright, N.T.  Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: Harper Collins, 2008.

 

Running full speed

And then…..we find ourselves running full speed to the people we love…amazed at the beauty we didn’t realize was there all along.

Five photos from the Oregon Trail near Boise, Idaho. From where we parked the view was meh, at best. Dirt, tumbleweed, and other foliage quickly browning and drying in the Autumn cool.
Starting along the trail I briefly considered the possibility that perhaps I was not in the right place, that I had somehow made a navigational error that had landed me NOT in the place so strongly suggested to me by a friend.
But we walked for awhile anyway. Then, the trail veered to the right and took us closer to the edge of the valley…and the view below was breathtaking in autumn colors!
Sometimes like can be like this. Mundane moment followed by mundane moment…un-colorful and uninteresting, drying and dying, meaningless and not worth the effort. And then…..we find ourselves running full speed to the people we love…amazed at the beauty we didn’t realize was there all along.

 

 

“It would seem as though God’s people have almost always had to narrate their life through the lens of exile”

(T. Scott Daniels, Exile, Kindle location 180) 

Having lived for nearly 15 years in an Asian country where the Christian community is a significant minority, the idea of exile is a familiar one, though prior to reading T. Scott Daniel’s Exile I’m not sure I ever thought of it through the lens of exile.  In the context of the minority Christian community where I live, the reality of exile is the way things have always been and probably will be generations to come.  Modest increases in the demographic percentages of Christians nationwide, along with a general cultural religious tolerance, have made Christian communities fairly optimistic.  Even so, an underlying nervousness underlies the delicate political foundations of this nation as radical, hard-line non-Christian political leaders often receive strong support from somewhat small, but very loud, radical factions of the nation.

In the U.S., I see a very different form of exile, if it is appropriate to refer to this truly as exile.  Daniels writes that “many Christians are waking up to the reality that they are suddenly strangers in a strange time” (Exile, Kindle location 141).  The sense of exile I increasingly see and hear from my American friends has a very different feel than that of their Asian counterparts.  Here in U.S., the Christian community seems to be feeling the loss of something and so the reaction often takes the form of an aggressive “let’s get back what we had” mentality, especially as it relates to politics and changes in the American cultural landscape; perhaps even a “defeat the enemy invading our territory” kind of impulse. This has been demonstrated with great clarity over recent weeks of political debate and discourse leading up to a highly divisive presidential election.

Here in U.S., the Christian community seems to be feeling the loss of something and so the reaction often takes the form of a sometimes aggressive “let’s get back what we had” mentality…

The Asian world in which I live and work is a world to which I have grown accustomed and the world in which my children have been raised.  The American world is one in which many loved ones live, to which my children will return (much sooner than I’m prepared for), and to which I will certainly sometime return.  What sort of world will that be?  Will the American church continue to struggle against its cultural exile?  Or will exile be embraced and become a catalyst for unity in mission?

For my Asian friends what I fear most is that their view of God’s Kingdom and reign will remain small, characterized by a “waiting for the future eternal kingdom” that is disconnected from the here-and-now and easily manifested as a fortress mentality that builds walls between “us” and “them.” For my American friends and family, what I fear most is that the view of God’s Kingdom and reign remains tied political victories and maintenance of a cultural Christianity that replaces, for many, a more authentic expression of the church, and that when these things slowly begin slipping away—as seems to be happening—harsh words and actions said and done in the name of Christ will only serve to increase the distance between “us” and “them.”

For my American friends and family, what I fear most is that the view of God’s Kingdom and reign remains tied political victories and maintenance of a cultural Christianity that replaces, for many, a more authentic expression of the church…

Those are my fears.  My prayer and hope, however, is much the same as that expressed by Daniels, that “…when the people of God are in places of marginalization and need, they seem to allow the Spirit of God to dwell in them an empower them to live faithfully despite the challenges.”  If Daniels is right, then exile may well lead to transformation.  If that is the case there is reason to be hopeful, regardless of the results of any political battle, presidential election, or sense of cultural loss.

Our hope, ultimately, is not found in political system, leader, or legislation.

Our hope is in Christ…

Majority of minority.  Wealth or poverty.  Power or weakness.  Health of sickness.

Our hope is in Christ alone.

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This article was originally presented in a class and was responded to by other students.  I have reproduced a few of those responses below:

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Response from G:  Change in and of itself is hard and can bring about uneasiness and fear.  When that change comes creeping into something we hold sacred…then the fear is intensified and can take any number of forms.  

My reply to G:  I am not a pastor or a local church, but I see this fear constantly in the eyes of young people who sense that the church could and should be so much more than what they experience it to be, yet an older generation of leadership resists change and even sometimes seems to actively suppresses it.  

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Response from T:  I briefly touched on this above, but one thing that makes me nervous is seeing the church identify as an exile without giving allowance to hope or the restorative power that God has for His people. “

My reply to T:  This is an important observation, T, because it touches on what I see as a key difference between those who have lived as exiles (or as significant faith minorities) and those who have a sense that they are in the process of being exiled; that is, a realization or sense that they are in the process of losing something.  A significant difference is that of hope.  Those who have long been exiled look forward with hope, while those being exiled lament what they perceive is being lost.  My other thought, though not yet fully formed, is that perhaps exile is (at least part of) the way that restoration will come—not the restoration of a church buoyed by cultural norms and a basic Christian literacy; rather a restoration of what the church really is and it’s role in the world.

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Response from J:  God does his most transformative work when his people are in exile. God’s power and grace are manifested in times of exile not when his people are not in power.

My reply to J:  Similar to you, J, on a theoretical level (logically speaking) I can see what Daniel’s is saying here.  On the practical level, however, it’s not something most of us are ready to enthusiastically embrace.  I guess it is comforting to know that Israel also did not ask for exile or seek it out or embrace it when it came.  Yet, it was beneficial, albeit painfully at times.

Implicit in the quote above is an idea that when everything is easy and a general cultural worldview holds sway, God’s full power and grace cannot be manifested in the same way as when the people of God are powerless, marginalized, and defeated.  I think we can all give examples of times when “Christianity in power” had resulted in a less-than-Christlike witness, testimony, existence in the world; whereas the early church, for example, was virtually bankrupt of power yet became well-known for it’s love for each other.

These are challenging ideas, to be sure. 

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Response from R:  When I read your sentence about “true citizenship status” a brief though crossed my mind, something like this–what if tomorrow morning all of those who called themselves Christian were taken out of their context and then randomly reassigned to a Chrisitan life somewhere in the world.  For example, what if tomorrow I woke up as a Christian in a small village in Siberia while another Chrisitan from Africa suddenly woke up in my place.

What would each of us think?  Would the poor Asian Christian mother be happy in an affluent suburban church setting?  Would the successful pastor of a large church make it in a small South American village church?   What I mean is, how much of our experience is tied to our social, political, and economic realities.  And, if those were suddenly shuffled, how would it change our perspectives on the Kingdom of God and the church.  I have a “creeping sense” that the exile we dread may well be seen as a significant improvement if we were to trade places.

Response from R: Thanks for sharing, R.  Excellent thought!  I think your are right that in some ways our American “doomsday” fear may well be considered an improvement of circumstances for many of our global brothers and sisters.

  Just as you shared about  being an African American living in Idaho (culture shock!), far away from the familiar, I have also been through similar form of exile being among the few caucasian Christians in a region of the world dominated by darker skinned people (of various people groups) who claim a variety of religious backgrounds.  At first I definitely felt like I did not belong and longed to go home….now, I more and more feel like I belong here and less and less feel like I belong at home.  What I have realized, though, is that I really don’t fully belong anywhere.  

Children from one cultural background that grow up in a different cultural background are often called “Third-Culture Kids”– that describes my own children, but it also describes me.  Perhaps this is one way to look at exile, too.  We are somewhere in the middle.  Yet, if you ask me, I’ll tell you that the person I am today and whatever growth I have experienced over the several years are precisely due to the fact that I have been living in this “in-between” place, and I don’t think I would trade it for anything.

I voted!

When your mission is to win at all costs…you have already lost.

Originally posted at the Do Everything In Love Community Facebook page

f you support Trump…you are my friend.
If you support Biden…you are my friend.
If you support any other candidate…you are my friend.
Whatever your political perspective, I can call you friend.
When you present your perspectives and arguments (whether I agree with them or not) with thoughtfulness and integrity, then you have won my respect and my listening ear. And in doing so our friendship grows because we can understand each other better.
But when your communications (whether we agree or not) are filled with unfair, untrue, and unkind words — shallow memes, name-calling, demonization of others, dubious “facts” and more — you are still loved, but you have probably lost some portion of my respect and your words become like white noise in the background.
And for those who claim the name of Christ as part of your identity…when you do such things you have compromised your witness, your testimony, and your opportunity for meaningful dialogue.
When your mission is to win at all costs…you have already lost.

 

Reaction from Readers

From JB — “Is racism a perspective? I’m not sure that ever wins respect or a listening ear with me. Solid post otherwise, but wondering if there are red line topics?”

          My response to JB — “That’s a good point, Jeremy. Yes, I do suppose that there are some red lines for which it would be very difficult to maintain even a sliver of respect or desire to listen — racism, human trafficking, pedophilia would be a few examples, perhaps. These are not the things I was thinking of as I was writing the post and I’m not sure I would include them in thinking on perspective. When I was thinking of political perspectives I had in mind issues for which there tends to be two or more “valid” political perspectives, thoughts, or ways of approaching certain issues. I’m going to think about this a bit more….thank you for this question and input. It’s important.”

From ASG — “I agree with every word!”

          My response to ASG — “Thanks!”

From JMB –– “Thank you for saying it so well! I have been greatly troubled watching friends who say they are Christians and then show an entirely different “face” on Facebook. It is one thing to speak up or out against things for which you do not agree or try to change social injustices. It is yet another to spread lies, gossip and hatred through memes (probably made in Russia or elsewhere) which divide us as a nation, family and our friends. I was unfriended by a believer because I called them out on it. We had been real friends for thirty years. While it hurts deeply that someone would put political posts and opinions over a friendship, after watching “The Social Dilemma” I totally get how they can be misled and confused in these crazy times and I forgive them for that. ❤

          My response to JMB — “Sorry you had to deal with that situation, but I so appreciate your forgiveness response. It’s not easy….”

 

 

 

 

I voted!

What does a Christlike approach to politics look like?

Originally posted at the Do Everything In Love Community Facebook page

What if I told you I voted for Trump? What if I told you I voted for Biden? Or, what if I told you I didn’t vote for either? Would your opinion of me change based on this information, even in light of whatever your previous opinion of me might have been?
Why?
Would you simply assume that I was “that” sort of person…or would you want to know my reasons for my choice?
It’s so easy demonize the faceless “Trumper” or the unseen Biden backer, but what about when people we love have differing views and ways of coming to political decisions? Do we have space for that? Is there room room enough for this sort of grace in our relationships?
Or are we willing to sacrifice friendships and family for the sake of political partisanship, imperfect platforms, and less-than-Christlike candidates?
What does love require of us in the political realm?
What does a Christlike approach to politics look like?
I don’t know all the answers, but I suspect it involves a great deal more grace, sacrifice, and surrender than we might realize.

Reaction from readers:

From RCH — “Excellent article. People r much more important than politics. We have friends and relatives extreme on both sides and we have learned from all of them cause we listen. No arguing involved.”

          My response to RCH — “Listening is an important skill to practice…”

From KB — “Honestly? I would silently judge you. Intentionally set that aside and then choose to be gracious towards you. I mean honestly, we question anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The question is if we can love them and be gracious anyway.”

          My response to KB — “Sure, you are right. There is certainly some internal reaction with every decision we see people make. I’m not sure there is any way to avoid that completely, or to train ourselves otherwise, except perhaps to be completely apathetic to every facet of life on earth. Like you said, though, outward behavior in response to these internal reactions is in our hands; the result on conscious, controllable decisions to act one way or another. And, perhaps we might add, the observable fruit of these conscious decisions are part of the Spirits work in our lives.”

From TKT — “Needed to read this. Thank you.”

          My response to TKT — “I needed to write it…thank YOU.”

From JMB — “I have found these times to be quite trying in some cases. While I have friends (and family) who purport to be Christians on the outside, I see another side to them in what they post on their facebook pages, particularly in memes which are rude, crude, mean and hateful. I was unfriended by someone I have known for 30 years (from our church family) because I openly opposed a meme as such, which I knew to be a false statement, and said so. It was a sad time for me that anyone would put a politician or political views, which seem to change every four years anyway, before a lifelong friendship, but it happens.

I think sometimes, they unfriend or block as a quick “shut the door” or “hang up the phone” effort to stifle anyone who speaks against their beliefs and once it is done, it’s permanent. There are, in fact, many ways to stop someone from commenting if you don’t like what they have to say. Social media has thrust us into a whole new realm of morals and values which we are still learning. I have moved on and for some in the same category, I now just scroll on by. I have found that no amount of truth can change someone else’s thinking. They have to find the truth themselves and it’s not always easy to find, because we all get caught up in the shiny, bright things of this world and the velvet words of a politician.

Thankfully, I still have some friends who openly disagree with me, but we have wonderful deep conversations of which we both learn new things about it. I guess that is what being adults, and being kind, compassionate and Christlike is all about! Thanks for your words S.E. You are always making a good point of life today! ❤ ❤ ❤

From DD — “Political choices do have ramifications. Particularly on people that are not ‘like’ you. So yes it is very important to me how my community vote in this election. In times like these, it is huge reflection to character and values. I cannot in good faith turn a blind eye to the administration while people of color suffer, people of different faiths suffer, people of different sexual orientation, or people of different economic statuses.

I get triggered with this idea that people say God is in control regardless of results. For believers, didn’t God give everyone the power of choice? Don’t your choices have ramifications? Yes, go and vote like your life depends on it, bc actually people’s lives do depend on it.
          
          My response to DD — “I agree D, the vote matters greatly and ought to undertaken with great humility and taking into deep consideration the need and situation of the greater population — not just my own little world and what is best for me. I also see how that the further we alienate ourselves from those with other perspectives (held with integrity even though we may disagree) the wider the division grows and the more the country is fractured, torn, and broken. It cannot continue…the breaking off of relationships is not the path of healing.
I have never been one to believe that God determines, or directly controls the outcomes of, things such as elections. I have never proclaimed any President to be “God’s choice.”  As you said, the choice is ours, as a nation. God moves, at least in part, through Gods people, which is why maintaining relationships is so important. Little gets accomplished when politics turn into shouting matches or when the issues remain politely unspoken. But when respectful conversations take place, when room is made for differences of opinion, then changes of thoughts and attitudes can, and will, take place.”

 

 

How refreshing, like rain clearing the sky of the noxious smoke of raging wildfires, to see someone refuse to make fun of, throw jabs or insults at, or demean a political opponent in the midst of his time of vulnerability…. it was… what’s the word?… it was… kind.
And, likewise, I hope for a quick and speedy recovery to this man and his wife, and all around him who have also been infected.
Politics need not be filled with rottenness…
“With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”   –James 3:9-10

 

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/deilcommunity