How we live as exiles…


The Bible teaches us that we, as Christians, are exiles (1 Pet. 1:1, 17; 2:11; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14). That is, we as Christians are separated from our true country. This is a biblical reality and more and more becoming an empirical reality. For instance, Newsweek has said, “Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population” (cf. U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious“). 

America has been postmodern and now we’re told America is post-Christian. But it’s not surprising. And it’s actually ok because this is not our home. We are “exiles” (1 Pet. 1:1, 17) and so we shouldn’t expect to have a nice cushy Christian majority (not that a Christian majority is wrong). We function, as the early church functioned, from the margins, not from the center.

Also, notice that Peter doesn’t tell us to wage war to ensure that we are the “moral majority.” No. Peter says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:11-12 see also 1 Cor. 5:9-13).

It’s actually Christian’s morality that Peter is concerned with. Peter doesn’t say watch out for the world’s morality (and Peter lived under Roman control). No. He says, watch out for your own morality. Wage war against your soul. We are called to live our lives “constructively embedded within society while not being enslaved to all of its norms and ideals” (Lee Beach, The Church in Exile, 183).

As Christians, we must realize that we can’t make America the Promised Land because it’s not the Promised Land. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

Also, as exiles, we know we have been given a job while we sojourn here. So, we take seriously the call to make disciples by intentionally going to our communities with the gospel. And we don’t expect the community to come to us, we realize that we are sent as the Son was sent (cf. Jn. 17:18).

As missionaries to our neighborhoods, we are affected and motivated by the missionary love of God. We are not merely commanded but personally constrained to share the good news of Jesus, because it is good news.

We have no sectarian goals as Christians. Because “the church is not against the world in that it does not express holiness by reciprocating the world’s animosity toward it, and neither does the church demonstrate holiness by condemning the ways of the world with self-righteous living and rhetoric” (Lee Beach, The Church in Exile, 130). 

So, what are some characteristics of Christian exiles? 1) Jesus is our King, we have no true king here. 2) We don’t expect everything to go our way, we realize this is not our home. 3) We, as exiles, are also ambassadors representing our King and His message (Jn. 17:18; 2 Cor. 5:20). 4) As exiles, we are not to escape from the world but be lights in the world (Matt. 5:15; 1 Cor. 5:10). 5) We have a different morality and focus than the sorrounding world because we don’t have our “minds set on earthly things” because we realize “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil.  3:19-21 cf. Heb. 11:10, 16, 25; 1 Jn. 2:15). 6) As exiles, we also don’t expect to be the majority in power.

As exiles and sojourners, let’s faithfully live for our King and Savior and let’s look to and hope in the Kingdom that He will shortly bring to full fruition. 

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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