From the Outside Looking in

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s your current resident status?

“For the first time in years, he felt the deep sadness of exile, knowing that he was alone here, an outsider, and too alert to the ironies, the niceties, the manners, and indeed, the morals to be able to participate.” ― Colm Tóibín, The Master

As a sociologist I’ve been trained to take the perspective of the stranger. To try and see as much taken for granted as I could. When teaching classes, the big challenge is to help students to see all of the powerful influences of their situations, contexts and other people. We are the products of the world in which we live – in very specific ways. For example:

  • Family
  • School
  • Church
  • Friendships
  • Democracy & Freedom
  • Individualism
  • Money, greed and selfishness
  • Even our dreams…

In great ways and terrible ways, our society shapes who we are.

Now for the believer, here’s the irony – we live the transformative process of becoming strangers to this same world that made us (and still does).

I suppose we have to choose how we are going to live:

  1. As natives who remain in the broken garden
  2. Someone who can’t decide where he/she really belongs
  3. As outsiders who refuse to put down roots

Peter writes and urges believers to live here like a foreigner:

Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul.   -1 Peter 2:11 (The Voice)

Paul goes into even more detail when he describes the lives of all the men and women of faith who came before Christ. Even they believed that they were living like exiles here on earth, waiting for a real home one day to come:

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.    – Hebrews 11:13-16

When Peter and Paul were writing, they were living in a pagan world. I know theses days it’s sometimes hard to believe, but in the West we live in a culture that over hundreds of years has been dramatically shaped by the Christian faith. This doesn’t mean that our culture isn’t a mess and doesn’t mess people up. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still live like outsiders, anticipating one day our real home.

The daily challenge is to remain conscious of our REAL place in this world:

  • Fully engaged in the world around us (that means in the lives of people who cross your path) and at the same time, living as an immigrant (with no plans to assimilate).
  • Resisting the ever present temptation to “go native” and live in all the frenzy, fear and fuss of this age – believing that what we see with our eyes is all that matters.
  • Using a “long lense” of eternity to gain a perspective on things. The here and now, right this minute, in your face – so much that is urgent but seldom important.

What is your current resident status – are you a full blown citizen of the right now or an immigrant, making the most of your visit?

He is Alive and Still Praying

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.  – Romans 8:34

jesus-gethsemane

 

 

 

 

 

 

I may have stirred everyone up today. I told people in my Sunday School department that Jesus wasn’t living in their hearts. That’s not a nice thing to say on Easter Sunday.

Lot’s of fidgeting around in their plastic chairs. I was racing to get it all in before members of the choir had to leave early and everyone else needed to exit in time to get a seat for the packed Easter worship service that follows. I wish I had slowed down and let people process what they were hearing. That always works best. It may be a lot to think about if you’ve grown up singing “Since Jesus came into my heart…”

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:31-32

I had never noticed this before. As we were studying the life of Christ these past few years, I saw for the first time Jesus talking with Peter about His prayers and what He hoped the results would be. As I thought about this I wanted to remind my class that Jesus wasn’t living in their hearts (like our hymns might wrongly teach us) but he was still fully human, fully God and still fulfilling His mission in Heaven.

God has sent the Holy Spirit to reside in our hearts.

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  John 14:15-18

Remembering that Jesus isn’t in my heart but instead is in heaven helps me to realize what He is doing for me there. He has ascended as victor over death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is preparing a place for me. He is going to return one day as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now he is interceding for me as He did for Peter, pleading in prayer, that my faith would not fail.

Notice that he told Peter not that he was going to pray that all of his problems would go away nor that he would be able to avoid his trials with a happy attitude. He prayed for Peter’s faith, that it would not fail. Not that Peter would necessarily feel better about himself, but that he would have the maturity and wisdom to lift up his fellow apostles. Jesus was praying for Peter and his faith so that he could use that faith for the sake of others and in so doing launch the church. Instead of sinking into self-destructive despair because of his denial, Peter becomes one of the key leaders in the birth of Christianity.

Jesus was already praying for Peter as he prepared Himself for the cross.

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. – Hebrews 7:25

He is alive, He has risen from the dead.

Jesus is now in Heaven and He is praying for me – He is praying for you.