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Sojourners & Exiles

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4

We Christians are sojourners and exiles.  This is not where our ultimate allegiance lies!  

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

We certainly aren’t lacking in opportunities to engage in political discourse these days.  From mask wearing to vaccine mandates and budget crises to abortion laws the world around us is in quite a turmoil.  But when, as Christians, are we to engage?  When are we called to join the fight and stand resolutely in our faith?  These next two posts will look at our life as Christians and the political realm.  First, starting with what role the church, and therefore Christians, play in our common citizenry.

But let’s back up a bit.  For those of us living in the United States we’ve seen a serious deterioration from our Christian-held values over the last 70 years or so.  Not long ago almost all businesses were closed on Sundays and you certainly couldn’t by alcohol on that day.  Now, a business that makes the decision to not be open on Sundays because of their beliefs is vilified.  I’ve heard different arguments about whether or not the United States was a special project by God.  Whatever stance you may take on that we can be certain that every single nation was formed by God.  Every single head of state has been placed in their position by God and therefore is subject to His expectations and final judgment.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17

That the United States was founded with God and the idea of His sovereignty at the forefront should not, however, be in dispute.  Besides the federal founding documents, all state constitutions, except one, reference God and His oversight of said government in the beginning of those documents.  It was then left to the citizens, as it has throughout the history of the world, to maintain that stance.

When you get deep in to C.S. Lewis’ great Christian apologetic book, Mere Christianity, you’ll find the concept of a Moral Law.  Through every empire, every phase of human existence we turn to this moral law for guidance.  We know what basically is wrong (ie: killing another human for gain or pleasure) and what is right (ie: helping a widow or orphaned child).  And, as Mr. Lewis argues, no matter your faith or lack thereof those concepts have been placed in our hearts and minds by someone.

But as a society drifts further away from a common faith, as in the case of much of Europe, North America and South America, we create new ways of working around what we know to be right and wrong.  We bend the moral law to fit the desires of our flesh and we seek to be accepted by the world.

You cannot make men good by (man-made)law; and without good men you cannot have a good society.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

And so, as Christians we watch as one of the last bastions of religious freedom, the United States, which also built upon that with many other freedoms, begin to crumble.  And we can so easily misplace our fears on our elected officials and the laws they create. 

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:8-9

At the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Romans ruled with an iron fist.  Anyone that did not submit to their laws was imprisoned, tortured, killed, or pushed out of everyday society.  And Paul reminds not just Timothy but all of us who read this message that we have one commander to whom we must be most concerned – God and His son Jesus Christ.  We are set apart to be holy and live a holy life.

We are reminded that our role in this world is a sort of dual citizenship – to the country we call home and the home that waits for us.  It’s a balancing act that the disciples knew all too well.  We are to obey the laws of our government as good guests yet remembering we have limits based on God’s expectation of our adherence to His moral laws and knowledge of the final judgment.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles,to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It may come as a surprise to many Christians in the United States but it isn’t our role to create a “just society.”  It is our role to seek justice for those in need in our communities but we can’t right every wrong.  We need to be comforted that God is in charge and we can, as individuals and corporately do His good works.  But Jesus, time and again, never sought regime change.  He sought heart change. He sought obedience by His followers to God’s expectations.

Being a sojourner did not require isolation from surrounding societies.  Abraham seems to have understood the need to exercise prudential judgment about how, when and with whom to share common activity.  One approach did not fit all cases.

David Van Drunen, Politics After Christendom

So does this mean we shouldn’t try and affect our government’s choices or laws?  No, it’s just remembering who we serve first, resolutely.  It’s remembering the difference between violently protesting a wrong and speaking out within the framework of how God wants us to act.  It’s figuring out where God and the church stands on an issue (ie: abortion) and where something may not be biblical at all (ie: the federal budget).  It’s making sure our heart and mind set firmly with God, not the world.

Believe me, I’ve struggled with these issues a lot.   I’ve stood on street corners waving my country’s flag and promoting a candidate.  I’ve stood up to politicians who have demonstrated a lack of moral character. Neither of which are wrong for a Christian.  I vote in every single election. Which is, in a way, expected as a Christian. But as my faith progresses, I’m taking a new view of my place on this big blue planet.  When I firmly set King Jesus as my authority, as my hope, as the Lord and Savior not just of my world but of every single human that has existed and will exist, my perspectives change.

As Christians we cannot continue to say we trust God, we know God will judge in the final conflict and still scream in outrage at people who disagree with our political opinion.  That message speaks loud and clear to non-believers that we don’t trust God.  That we haven’t set Him as our authority. That we have no concern for eternity. 

It’s time, fellow sojourners, to pull out our passports and remind ourselves of our future travel plans.  To stand resolutely with the one King that will judge everyone for all ungodly acts.  He has not appointed us commissioners of that judgment.  Yet, we are also not called to be passive in our worldly citizenry — sitting back and watching the world fall around us. He has appointed us as soldiers to exhort others to follow Him before it is too late.

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The Purposeful Path

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from God.  3 John 11

When I was first researching the word “resolute” I came across the tiny village of Resolute in the province of Nunavut, Canada. Back in 1999, Canada created a new province from the original Northern Territories specifically for its native citizens.  And Resolute was one of the northernmost inhabited spots in that province.  Its most famous resident, who put Resolute firmly on the map, was Joseph Idlout, the subject of two documentaries, Land of the Long Day in 1952 and Between Two Worlds in 1990. He was for a time one of the most well-known Inuit and was shown on the back of the Canadian two-dollar bill.

I decided to watch the Land of the Long Day and was treated to some childhood memories of old fashioned documentary film styles.  This little film about a tiny family eking out an existence in the Arctic held my fascination for over an hour.  You see, Mr. Idlout purposefully chose to keep his family close to the old ways of living.  They hunted and gathered what was available each season, storing up for long, dark winters.  They used every available resource to keep their family alive and thriving.   Everyone in the family had a job to do for their survival.  And to maintain this way of life he petitioned the Canadian government to move to a tiny weather station called Resolute and create a home for themselves.  Rather than uprooting their lives and becoming more “modern” they chose to remain true to their culture.  And they flourished. 

It’s perfect that this “most famous Inuit” moved to a tiny town called Resolute because that’s what it took to make his decision for his family.  And I wonder, how many decisions us modern parents make are based on what God really wants for our children? 

As a grandma and parent of two, now grown women, I can easily recall times when I had to make decisions that would set my children and family apart from others.  So many times, when I would go against the norm, others would say to me,  “I hadn’t even thought about that.”  In other words, they were just going along to get along without consulting any moral code whatsoever.

“When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, “No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It seems so natural to automatically sign a permission slip for your child to go on the 4th grade overnight trip that every single 4th grader in your school has gone on for the last 10 years.  There’ll be chaperones and it’s just down the street.  Everyone is going.  And then you find out boys and girls will be sleeping together in small rooms.  Chaperones include moms and dads – many whom you don’t know.  So your daughter will be spending the night with boys and a dad.   No problem, everyone is going.  Everyone has gone.  No one has ever brought up any issue.   So what’s your problem?  Are you going to set your child apart?  Will you be resolute in what you know is the God-directed answer?

In the verse today it says “imitate evil.”  And I think so often when we read things like that in the Bible we give ourselves little passes to make immoral decisions, especially when we feel it might harm our kids’ social lives.  I mean, it’s not “evil” to let our kids go on a boy/girl sleepover.  It’s not “evil” to allow our daughters to wear the latest fashions that might be a bit revealing.  It’s not  “evil” to let our sons play violent video games.  It’s also not “evil” for all the parents at the birthday party to get drunk. Right?

In a world where parents are pressured into allowing their elementary and middle school children to start dangerous hormones and go under the knife in order to try and change their gender, letting your kids watch R rated movies and TV shows seems tame in comparison. And we let it slide.

“Perfect behavior may be as unattainable as perfect gear changing when we drive; but it is a necessary ideal. Prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars…it would be idiotic not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It’s interesting that this quote from Mere Christianity involves using a stick shift in a car.  For just about every one of us that process has changed to be an automatic.  But the question I ask is your automatic response to making decisions for yourself and your family set to the world of the flesh or the Word of God? 

For Joseph Idlout, he drew on his people’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history and made the conscious decision to not go the modern route of the world.  And I have to say they seemed to live a pretty content and peaceful life.  Not an easy one by any means.  The harsh Arctic conditions probably led many to scoff at their decision.  They might even have been called any manner of names from savages to crazy to ignorant.  But his children didn’t grow up with drug addictions, suicidal tendencies, endless debt, and more that our world offers.

We can’t all put our families on an island away from the world’s influences.  But we can stop pretending things aren’t “evil” when they go against what God wants of us.  We must be resolute and purposeful in following God’s will for our families.  To be His humble servants, to know His Word inside and out so that it becomes automatic, and to live like the chosen people we are.  Our children’s lives depend on it.

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Repair My Soul, Oh Lord

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  Psalm 23:1-3

A couple of ladies in one of my Bible study groups have had workmen at their houses this year.  If you’ve ever had people working on your house you probably have already conjured up the trials and delays you experienced.  It seems inevitable.  So often promises are made and quickly broken from timeframes to costs.  One of these ladies missed Bible study to be at home for a painter, who had not completed the work the day prior.  The next day the painter arrived only to tell her he was going to another job instead and just needed to pick up his ladder.  After multiple delays the painter fired my friend.  Yes, you read that correctly.  After asking him to give her a better idea of the actual timeframe the painter called her up and said he couldn’t work with her!

Thank goodness when we need work done on our hearts and minds God is a much more trustworthy repairman!  Today I praise God for refreshing us, for fixing our missteps, for repairing our souls.

I was recently talking with a friend about forgiveness.  And what came out of that was the need not only to forgive but to ask God to help repair our hearts and minds of all the negative associated emotions.  Forgiveness is not an easy task when we’ve been hurt, abused, taken advantage of, or even when things or people are taken from us.  And so, we give it to God to help us forgive.  I wonder however, how often when we forgive others do we have a residual bitterness or pain or guilt left in us?  I find this is often the case for me when it comes to having to forgive myself.  When something triggers a bad memory I cringe a bit and that demon called “guilt” or “shame” wants to raise it’s ugly head. 

God doesn’t want us to just forgive but to live a life of forgiveness – a life free from that guilt and shame and bitterness.  All of it. Not one single tiny pocket of it left in our hearts.

Psalm 51 has so many great prayers to God for restoration and healing.  Here’s a couple:

Verse 2:  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Verse 7: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Verse 12 — Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

God has a 1-800-Repairman hotline.  He not only answers 24/7 He jumps into action when needed.  It’s time to ask God to completely remove those the negative emotions from our past.  To be completely renewed.  To be completely healed.

A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time.

C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Isn’t God so loving, so unique in this trait?  He lives as our own mini-repairman right in our souls.  We don’t need to wait for the next appointment (in 3 weeks) or be disappointed when he doesn’t show up.  All we need to do is ask God to fix us.  And even if we aren’t sure exactly what the problem is, if we ask him to make a diagnosis He will – free of charge.  

I know that I will mess up and break some things in my life.  I also know that when I gave my life over to Christ I got a lifetime warranty.  All repairs covered upon asking.