Living as an Exile

Friends. I thought we could spend just a few moments today expounding a little bit further on the topic that I brought up on Sunday, and that is the life of being in exile in Babylon. If you remember, we looked historically at the ancient Israelites and how God had brought them from Israel and allowed them to be taken into exile into a foreign land. And so the things that were familiar to the ancient Israelites, the things that were so important to them, are now taken away and they’re thrust into this new culture. And it was a really troubling time for them.

And we read about some of the laments in the book of Lamentations about that time of exile for ancient Israel. But we talked about how that period in Israel’s history is also in the Bible, looked at as more universal. And it’s pointing to a larger theme of exile for all of us that go back to the garden. In Genesis, chapter three, you see that we all lost our home because of our rebellion against God. And so we kind of looked at this idea of being in exile and of living in a world that often is very inhospitable to us, where we feel like a fish out of water.

And so we talked about what that looks like to still honor and serve God while living in a place where we are under the rule of perhaps a foreign ruler or of a king that we may not agree with. And what does that look like in Scripture? And the New Testament talks about how people who are in Christ and who follow Jesus are exiles and are foreigners. And so we need to think about what does it look like to live as an exile. And so I just wanted to spend a couple of moments just reflecting a little bit more on that.

And I encourage you, if you need a refresher, to go back to Jeremiah 29, verses four through seven, because in Jeremiah 29, god gives a message to those in exile living in Babylon, a really surprising message. And that is not to fully assimilate into this new culture, this new paradigm of where that they were. But he also doesn’t tell them to fully separate either. We would normally think God would tell them to do one or the other, but instead he directs them to a third way of living. And that is one of loyalty, but also obsion.

And so I encourage you to go back to Jeremiah 29, four through seven to look a little bit more at that. And you can listen to my message from Sunday, but I just want to think a little bit further about what does it look like to live as a Christian exile in this world while we wait for the return of Jesus to bring us into our forever home. And when we are no longer in exile? Well, we look at the life of Daniel. And certainly Daniel lived the life of an exile.

But we also talked about Jesus and how Jesus lived the life of an exile. And Jesus certainly embodied that balance of loyalty and subversion, not complete assimilation, but not complete separation from the culture either. And so you look at Jesus and how he lived his life, and of course, we want to pattern our lives after that. People during Jesus time lived under the rule of the Roman Empire, a foreign empire, and that was ruled by Caesar. And there were many at that time who wanted to rebel and revolt against Rome, while there are others who just simply assimilated into the Roman culture and adopted the Roman gods.

But Jesus did something a bit different. In Matthew, chapter 22, for instance, there’s a group of people who came to him and said, is it right to pay the imperial tax? And they were trying to trick Jesus into whether or not he would say yes or no. And Jesus said something a bit surprising. He said, render unto Caesar that which is Caesars.

Render under God that which is God’s. And in essence, what he was saying is, sure, it’s fine and it’s right to give Caesar his coins. Go on ahead and do that. That’s appropriate. But at the same time, don’t forget that Caesar is not God.

Let’s not mistake Caesar for God, that God is the one who deserves your true loyalty and your true allegiance. And so Jesus lived this life of loyalty and of subversion. At the same time, he told his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who hurt them. But at the same time, he spoke out against the corrupt leaders of Israel and of Rome, and he was arrested for it. And Jesus also called out the idolatry of power that was at work in Israel and in Rome, and it cost him his life.

And yet God vindicated Jesus by raising him up and by promising that one day those of us who are living in this world but are following Jesus can be part of no longer being in exile and could be part of this forever kingdom. And so Jesus is drawing a sharp distinction between two kingdoms a kingdom of this world that is under the rule of man and a kingdom that is not of this world under the rule of Jesus. And for the time being, those of us who are Christ followers live in both kingdoms for the time being. And so we are having to live between this balance between, again, loyalty and subversion. And so how do we seek the well being of Babylon while living there, while also being a citizen of the kingdom of God?

That’s the tension to which you and I are called. And we’re called to work through those things and to wrestle with that. Yes, to love our enemies and to pray for those who hurt us and to also seek the well being of our country and of where we are. To honor those around us, to obey the authorities that God has placed over us, while at the same time remembering that we are foreigners and exiles in this world and that this world is not our home while we are still living here in Babylon. But we do look forward with anticipation and with hope for the day when we will be again.

Jesus will return and he will restore this world into our forever home. And we will no longer be in exile. But for now, we live in that tension, subversion and loyalty, and we await the return of Jesus. Thanks for joining us today, friends.