After the fall of Jerusalem, the people of Judah lived as resident aliens in Babylon. They were not merely collateral of war, the Lord sent them into exile. He had a purpose for them among the Babylonians, to reveal His glory and seek the “shalom” of the city where He sent them. We see in their exile the paradigm and paradox of the Christian life as they are placed by God’s providence in the midst of pagan Babylon, yet called to remain distinct as God’s covenant children. Listen as we examine Jeremiah 29 and consider its instruction and comfort to us regarding how we are to live faithfully as resident aliens in a land that is not our home.
In our family, the Forth of July ushers in the year’s second half with watermelon, a far-flung fireworks pilgrimage and, of course, home-made ice cream. We usually gather with family and friends on the Fourth to share our best home-made ice cream and patriotic recitations, capped of by a reading of the Declaration of Independence. While we are all familiar with the famous Jeffersonian platitudes on human equality and self-evident truths, the real meat of the Declaration is found in the “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” which required our forefathers to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The Declaration’s rationale and sense of compulsion is remarkable for its clarity.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The modern reader would do well to pay close attention to the “history of repeated abuses and usurpations” of the late King of England by which he abolished the free System of English Laws. For the litany of his tyranny reads like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The governmental overreach that drove our forefathers to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to resist are met in our day with sighs of resignation. One particular “abuse” caught my eye this year.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
Our forefathers were committed to the value of immigration as a way of strengthening, not weakening, society. To be sure immigration has its dangers and needs effective policies, but, properly understood, its diversity strengthens the fabric of society and brings glory to God (Rev 21:24). Resident aliens have great power to influence and effect society. They bring their particular cultural strengths to the table, but also foster the distinctives of their homeland. They are a part of society, without losing their identity.
The Church is to be like this – resident aliens, “an island of one culture in the middle of another.” (cf. Phil 3:20) But it must never be merely an enclave. For while the Church fosters the culture of its heavenly homeland, its calling is to transform its sphere of influence, not just “coexist.” The Church is a colony of resident aliens gathered to “name the name, to tell the Story, to sing Zion’s songs in a land that does not know Zion’s God.”
The closing chapters of Genesis chronicle the sojourning of Jacob’s family into Egypt where they become resident aliens. We see in their immigration the paradigm and paradox of the Christian life as they are placed by God’s providence in the midst of pagan Egypt, yet called to remain distinct as God’s covenant children. Join us this Lord’s Day, July 8, as we examine Genesis 47 and consider our calling to live as resident aliens. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.