Monday, November 7, 2016

An Expat Life

As tomorrow looms and everyone is wide-eyed with panic, I keep hearing (reading, actually) that all Christians should be reminded that our citizenship is actually in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and that we are aliens and strangers on this earth (1 Peter 2:11) and we should all find comfort in that.

I don't see a lot of people truly finding comfort in that truth. This pretty much happens every election season, but this one seems particularly dramatic and frightening, and no one really knows what to do about it.

I feel like one of the true treasures God has given me in the expat life is getting to experience what it really means to be an alien, a foreigner, an outsider experiencing the life of others from the inside. It is a truly unique and valuable experience on so many levels, but the greatest is being able to see the what the Bible is talking about in these passages. Because we are all really expats no matter where on earth we live.

In the airport on our first move out of the country. The beginning of our expat life.

Paul takes it even further and calls us "ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20) spreading Christ's message of reconciliation. So we are not just expats for no reason. We aren't just hanging out in these foreign places because they are cool and we like the food. We are here for a purpose, to bring a message. For all intents and purposes we are missionaries. Foreign missionaries. Even if you are American living in America.

In my missionary expat life I have lived in two different countries. In my daily life in both places I tried to live as best I could within those countries, being respectful of their customs and traditions without compromising my values or belief systems. I lived under governments that I did not always agree with, but as a guest in the country, respected their authority. If I ever choose not to respect that authority then I would be kicked out of the country and would lose my opportunity to be heard by the people who wanted to listen. In both places our goal has been to seek out people...individuals and small groups to share the message of reconciliation with...the Gospel. We didn't go to the government to reach the people. We didn't try to change the laws of the land in order to change hearts.

So why is that what we try to do in America? Why do we try to legislate people into Heaven? Why do we think that God will judge us by our candidates and not by our hearts?

I think we've been listening to the wrong narrative for too long. The one that says that because America was "founded on God" we were blessed. We forget that our founding Fathers were sinful people who made a lot of mistakes. We forget that not everyone has had a "blessed" American experience. We forget that there have been many MANY wealthy, powerful nations that thrived under pagan rule and leadership. We forget that America is not our home. You and I are foreigners in this country. Hopefully, you and I are foreign missionaries in this or any country we live. And the best missionary strategy of all is through relationships, not through the government legislation.

This was the model of Jesus, himself. He spent time with just basic people. Not the government, not even the religious leaders. Even though that is exactly what they expected...exactly what they wanted from him. They wanted him to BE the government. They wanted Him to restore the nation of Israel so they could live in freedom and not under Roman occupation and oppression. They wanted him to legislate and rule here on earth. They wanted God's laws and precepts to be the ruling authority.

What's wrong with that, right? Isn't that what God would want? Isn't that what He wants now for America? It's hard to imagine that is His chief desire for America when it wasn't His chief desire for Israel...a nation He established. But why? Why wouldn't God want His Son to come to earth and set up His Kingdom here?

Because this is not His home...and it is not ours either if we belong to Him. He let Caesar have what is Caesar's. The earthly things, the temporal. Let those who belong to the earth have it. Let them worry about who will and won't rule and what kind of nations they will establish. This earth is contaminated by sin, so why would Jesus ever set up His Kingdom here?

I'm not saying don't vote. I'm not saying don't vote to best way you can as a Christian. I'm saying don't get so hung up on it. Don't think you that the way to spread the message of reconciliation is in the ballot box. Vote. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. But then get on with your true calling, your true duty as a Christian. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Creating a "Christian" government is not our job. If that is what Jesus wanted He would have done that himself. He would have done what everyone wanted him to do in the first place.

One of the greatest benefits of the expat life has been seeing how Christians in other nations function under their respective governments. I've lived in a place where abortion is not only legal, but sometimes legally forced upon women. Women who are Christians. They don't protest, petition the government because they can't. But they do support each other. They pray and fast and hide pregnant friends. Christian doctors induce labor early so that babies can be born to the mothers that want them.

I've also lived in a place where the government doesn't really take care of its people. They leave the poor, defenseless, and oppressed to fend for themselves. But the Christians feed those who are hungry, and offer safe haven to those who need it. The believers are ambassadors in their earthly countries. They are offer something that their governments cannot or will not. They offer the hope and refuge of their true Home.

There were times when I wanted to scream for all their "rights" being violated. I wanted to change things for them. Make their lives easier, more comfortable, more free to share the hope they had in Christ. But then I realized something. Those governments are not stopping the believers. They were not stopping the Gospel. And no matter who wins the election, ours will not either.

But I think we know that, don't we? Haven't we heard how Christianity thrives under persecution? We just don't want persecution and hardship. We want the comfort we've always had. Our motivation is not to further the Gospel...not to spread the message of reconciliation. Our motivation is fear. Fear that God will take away "our country" just as He did with Israel. We read the Old Testament stories and quiver at the thought of the same thing happening to our new Jerusalem. God's new chosen nation. And in our fear we blame the sin of others, not the sin in our own hearts. The real problem is the sin of the baby killers and the homosexuals and if we don't stop their sin, then God will judge us and we'll suffer. We'll lose our freedom and prosperity, and that most alluring and deceptive of all idols- our comfort- and it will be all their fault.

So we try to take the easy way out and rant and rave at the politicians and try to mark a little box to save America rather than doing the hard work of investing in people's lives and showing them through our time, energy, and love that God has reconciled them to Himself through His Son Jesus.

We are just like the disciples in Acts chapter 1 who asked, "Lord are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel now????" Still not understanding that the Real Kingdom is eternal and not earthly. Jesus died and was resurrected defeating death itself and reconciling us to God through His sacrifice. Yet, they still wanted Him to be the earthly King to deliver them in the here and now. To make their lives a little safer, easier, and more comfortable.

And 2,000 years later we're still doing the same thing. Exiting the ballot box, looking up to heaven, and asking the Lord to restore something to us that was never really ours to begin with. Asking him to shore up the walls of this sand castle forgetting that an Everlasting Kingdom awaits us.

Forgetting that we are just missionary expats. And no matter what happens in our "host country" when our deputation is over we will one day return to our perfect Home.

Doing it again. More kids, more bags, new country.


  1. Well thought out and well written.

  2. Thank you for sharing...God is in control.

  3. Amazing insight! Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Oh wow. This was SO well done, and such good points, and as usual, I so enjoy your writing and your insights. I love what you said, and I love that you said it with such respect and honesty, and I love that you managed to do it without even mentioning a candidate, or a political party - because you're right, it really doesn't have much to do with that. Thank you. This was the best expository political piece I've read!