Tag Archive | sojourners

Strangers

Stranger
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
 
What is the greatest problem I’ve had being a missionary? It hasn’t been:
  • The language – even though we have learned one National language and one tribal language and function in a third area trade language and deal with 3 other tribal languages.
  • The bugs – even though when people ask about the most dangerous animals we have, I reply – mosquitoes, ameba, thyroid, and other assorted microbes.  The Lord has been very good to us and our kids, He has, I know, protected us from many things we were not aware of.
  • The snakes –  I saw more snakes growing up in Eastern Oklahoma.  We see some big snakes on occasion. I have seen 20ft snakes and eaten them. I have been face to face with a king cobra.
  • The rivers – we travel by river, not road. And in the beginning, made some unplanned swims in the river.
  • The mountains – we are thankful for missionary pilots that fly us over the mountains.
  • The heat – this is a much bigger issue and seems to be affecting us more as we go along.  But we have fans that help.

What I’m talking about is something that is more basic than just physical comforts. It has to do with relationships and our reason for being in a 3rd world tropical environment. The most difficult thing has been that we are always strangers/foreigners. I am always too tall, and too white. I don’t always talk and think like the natives.  

Now I don’t even think like the natives in the US. I am a stranger in America. I’m a river boat man. We travel by boat, I marvel at all the boats on the lakes here. I can’t understand why people would have boats like this to just use a couple of times a year, and they are not even going anywhere but in circles. It seems strange to me.
 
I have a problem when I come to the US. I am now a stranger. I feel it every time I come back.  Now my daughter shows her old Daddy how to use the credit card at the gas pump and at the check out in Wal-Mart. I have a problem every time I start driving in the US. Every time I have the green light and start through the intersection and have an approaching car – I pause to make sure the approaching car will stop.
 
We don’t have stop signs where I come from and folks don’t always stop for red lights where we come from. Teresa and I are strangers in this country. I feel like I am always trying to find my way around in traffic – always driving in a strange place and new roads. I need patience. Now I don’t always understand the words people use.
 
Is this wrong or sinful to feel like a stranger? No! I think the opposite is true. If we feel at home in this world we have an ungodly and non-Biblical worldview. I know that is strong language, but we have some things in Scripture to back this up. In a godly and Biblical sense, we should feel like strangers in this world. If we feel at home in this world we shouldn’t. This is not our home we are just passing through.
 
Heaven should be the home that we long for. I appreciate Don Wyrtzen’s song, “Finally Home”:
“Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven
Of touching a hand, and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial
Of waking up in Glory, and finding it ‘Home'”
That’s what I long for, to finally go home.
 
We often joke about the fact that in the Rapture there will be no packing and houses to close up, no kerosene fridges to shut down, no luggage to pack, list to make, nothing to forget,   nothing to move and check-in, no passports or visas, no security checks, or immigration points!  Nothing – just home, home at last.
 
Let’s think about some other folks that were strangers.
    1. Abraham was an alien and even had to buy a site to bury his wife Sarah. By faith Abraham was a stranger – by faith he saw his real home (Gen. 12:1; 23:4; Heb 11:8-10,13-16).
 
    2. Moses was a stranger all his life. An alien Hebrew in an Egyptian court for 40 years. A refugee in Midian for 40 years. A transient in the Sinai for 40 years. Yet he wrote of his dwelling place in Psalm 90:1: “Lord you have been my dwelling place throughout all generations.” This is a Godly attitude.
 
    3. John the Baptist was the original nonconformist, he marched to a different drummer, saw a different world.  He was the original nonconformist, a genuine free thinker. He adhered to Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (cf. Matt. 3:4-6; Lk. 7:28). Our home as Christians, after all, is heaven, not this world. We are not going to live forever in this world.
 
    4. Jesus was a stranger in this world. Jesus said in Matthew 8:20-21, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Having no “nest” is the cost of following Jesus (from my experience, our “nesting instinct” is one of the biggest hindrances to mission work).
 
    5. Paul the apostle shows us that being homeless on this earth is part of the job of an apostle (1 Cor. 4:11). He also reminds us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:16-18).
 
The majority of the world thinks that the visible is the most important thing. Money, a house, a car, land, a job, a position, recognition–all the things, the visible things, the world considers important. If we genuinely believe that the invisible is eternal, we will be a stranger in this world.
 
I am a stranger in this world because I believe the invisible is more important than the visible. “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
 
    6. Peter says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:11-12). Peter says we are strangers and should behave as such.
 
    7. James is very clear on this subject, as is typical for James. James 4:4 says: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (see also Jn. 17:14-16; Rom. 8:7; 1 Jn. 2:15).
 
Samuel Rutherford said, “If we were not strangers here the hounds of the world would not bark at us.” When I was growing up everybody had hounds that ran loose around the yard and would bark at strangers. How many of you remember that? Nowadays they have to be tied up. But those same hounds would not bark at us kids when we would come home but would come running for a pat or a scratch.
 
The world is threatened by us. We are of another world. They bark at us because we threaten their sinful desires and lifestyles. As John 3:20 says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” We are to be in the world but not of the world (see 1 Cor 5:10). We are to be a boat or ship on the water but not have the water in the boat.
 
I am a poor wayfaring stranger – this world is not my home. I’m just a pass’en through. So we don’t lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16-18), we continue to labor (1 Cor. 15:58) because we know an eternal reward is coming (Matt. 10:40-42; 19:28-30)! In fact, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
 
So, keep in mind everything is either a tool or an idol. And everything is going to burn.
 
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn. 15:18)
 
“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
 
You can play this song at my funeral: “Wayfaring Stranger.

Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles

I really appreciated Elliot Clark’s book Evangelism as ExilesHere are some of the things that stood out to me:

“Picture an evangelist. For many of us, our minds immediately scroll to the image of someone like Billy Graham—a man, maybe dressed in a suit and tie, speaking to a large audience and leading many to Christ. As such, we tend to envision evangelism as an activity—more commonly a large event—that requires some measure of power and influence. In communicating the gospel, one must have a voice, a platform, and ideally a willing audience. It’s also why, to this day, we think the most effective spokespeople for Christianity are celebrities, high-profile athletes, or other people of significance. If they speak for Jesus, the masses will listen. But this isn’t how it has always been. Not throughout history and certainly not in much of the world today” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).

Elliot Clark gives six essential qualities of a Christian exile on mission:

“With the help of God’s Spirit, such believers will be simultaneously (1) hope-filled yet (2) fearful. They will be (3) humble and respectful, yet speak the gospel with (4) authority. They will live (5) a holy life, separate from the world, yet be incredibly (6) welcoming and loving in it. While these three pairs of characteristics appear at first glance to be contradictory, they are in fact complementary and necessary for our evangelism as exiles” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).

From the perspective of 1 Peter, the antidote to a silencing shame is the hope of glory, the hope that earthly isolation and humiliation are only temporary. God, who made the world and everything in it, will one day include us in his kingdom and exalt us with the King, giving us both honor and also a home. We desperately need this future hope if we want the courage to do evangelism as exiles” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).

Here is a long string of quotes I found instructive:

“over the last decades, in our efforts at evangelism and church growth in the West, the characteristic most glaringly absent has been this: the fear of God… “Knowing the fear of the Lord, ” [Paul] explained, “we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11)… The consistent testimony of the New Testament is that if we have the appropriate fear for them and of God, we’ll preach the gospel. We’ll speak out and not be ashamed… our problem in evangelism is fearing others too much” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).

“In a world teeming with reasons to be terrified, the only rightful recipient of our fear, according to Peter, is God… Fear of him, along with a fear of coming judgment, is a compelling motivation to open our mouths with the gospel. But we do not open our mouths with hate-filled bigotry, with arrogant condescension, or with brimstone on our breath. According to Peter, we fear God and honor everyone else” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).

“According to Peter, we’re to honor everyone. Take a moment and turn that thought over in your mind. You’re called to show honor to every single person. Not just the people who deserve it. Not just those who earn our respect. Not just the ones who treat us agreeably. Not just the politicians we vote for or the immigrants who are legal. Not just the customers who pay their bills or the employees who do their work. Not just the neighborly neighbors. Not just kind pagans or honest Muslims. Not just the helpful wife or the good father” (Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).

Read More…

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). Read More…

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