The Bible says that we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). That we are only “temporary residents and foreigners” of this world. (1 Peter 2:11) And as Christians, we probably feel like we’re out of place when we hear of the things going on in the world… in our country. We feel like we don’t belong and we wonder if there’s anything we can do to make a difference.
So what should we do? How do we live as “visitors” while we wait to eventually go home?
Interestingly, the Israelites found themselves in this same situation more than once. Trying to live as the chosen people of the one true God among pagan cultures… submerged in pagan practices… tempted by that way of life and often finding themselves succumbing to those temptations. The prophet Jeremiah had some clear instructions for them, from God, during their exile to Babylon that I think we could use as an example of how we can live as we are “exiled” here on earth.
“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7 NLT)
God wanted them to get comfortable. To plant roots. To multiply. That would make an impact in a foreign land. God’s people multiplying! It would certainly enable them to have more of an influence on their society. God also wanted them to care about the nation they were living in. To “work for its peace and prosperity”. To pray to him for its welfare — because the welfare of the place they lived would directly impact their own welfare.
So how can we apply that advice to our own situation? How can we rise up as God’s people – as visitors to where we now live?
Multiply! Of course this certainly means to have children — to ensure future generations of godly people. But in our day and age, and based on Jesus’ Great Commission to go and make disciples, we can multiply as people of God by sharing the gospel with those in our sphere of influence.
Work for the peace and prosperity of our nation. I think this could mean something different for each of us depending on our God given gifts and talents, but one thing I don’t think it means is to “stay out of” issues and concerns that effect this nation as a whole. This one could take some personal reflection for me. Sometimes the issues that concern me the most seem too big for me to impact and I feel like just staying out of it. I feel like as long as I am doing o.k. … and my family, my church, etc. are doing o.k. — then that’s all that matters. But then how am I working for the peace and prosperity of the nation?
And pray to God for the welfare of our nation! In the midst of all of the battling over everything from policy – to budget – to religion… the easiest thing to do is to pray. But for many of us, I know for me, it’s not the first thing we think of. It’s often the last.
Then of course we must live every day as a light to our neighbors, friends, family so that they will want to experience the joy and hope that we have.
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11&12 NLT)