There is so much political flap these days about what to do with the surge of immigrants and refugees, what with so much total insensitivity to the humanitarian needs and the sheer tragedies that have provoked such…that is those of us who intend to live faithfully as the followers of Jesus and his teachings need to take a deep breath and remember that we are all of us fall into this category, according to the New Testament documents (I Peter 2:11 in loc.).

There is a historical document from the 2nd or 3rd century, The Letter to Diognetus, that reminds us that from the very beginning Christians were often in dispersion as misunderstood strangers in the various localities of the Roman Empire. The writer explains to his superior: “For Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, or language, or customs, you see, they do not live in cities of their own. … They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the wonderful and certainly unusual form of their own citizenship. They live in their own native lands, but as aliens, as citizens they share all things with others, but like aliens, suffer all things. Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country. [Readers can Google the rest of this letter].

We keep forgetting this reality. Those of us who are Christ’s followers in these United States are not primarily citizens of this nation, but are citizens of the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Our primary allegiance is not to this earthly nation, even though it is our calling to live out the ethics and lifestyle of God’s New Creation responsibly as we engage this place of our sojourn. What I am saying here is not a new thought. A generation ago, William Willimon and Stanley Haeurwas co-authored a whole book that spelled this out marvelously (Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony).

This has got to be a self-conscious understanding for us who are Christ’s followers in this confusing political and social moment of United States history. A current author (David Cay Johnston) has lamented that not only have the highest officials of this country lost their way, but that so many of those in the legislative branch have “lost the moral compass.” It is fitting in this Black History Month to recall what a magnificent model Dr. M. L. King, Jr. was of this understanding. When he was challenged that his protest movement violated the laws of the community/land, his response was: “But I appeal to a higher law!” Yet with that declaration of Kingdom of God loyalty, the problem only got worse and he was vilified, and many of his followers suffered. So, … we are aliens and exiles. We are not always appreciated. And after Dr. King became a Nobel laureate, he challenged this nation’s disastrous involvement in the Viet Nam War, and was further vilified. Yet these generations later his statue stands in the Washington Mall as a reminder of moral courage.

Christ’s followers, in the midst of the often/usually complex social and political realities of our place of sojourn, need to have our moral compasses finely-tuned to the ethical teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only so are we those who the incarnations of his New Humanity, and are the salt and light of the world. … We must never forget that we are aliens and exiles, but called to live-out his New Life where we are and at this moment.

And, to conclude, we must pray for a new generation of leadership for this nation, who are people of moral courage, and who are committed to peace, and order, and justice. Amen!

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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