Stranger in a Strange Land

When the baby looks around him

It’s such a sight to see

He shares a simple secret

With the wise man

He’s a stranger in a strange land

Just a stranger in a strange land

Tell me why

He’s a stranger in a strange land

Just a stranger in a strange land

– Leon Russell

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

Over the last few years, I have heard people on both the left and right complain about the world they inhabit. They lament what they read in the news. They are afraid of how the world has changed, or they believe it hasn’t changed rapidly enough. They may not like the results of an election. It is easy to find a person who feels out of place in this world. Many people do not like this feeling. They desperately want to alter the world to conform to their norms. They want to be surrounded by people who are like-minded. They don’t want to feel different.

When we look around at all that is going on and feel uncomfortable, maybe this is ok. Perhaps, we are meant to feel uneasy about what we encounter on an everyday basis. We need to contemplate why we feel alarmed. Is it because you want to protect your home and finances? Is it because you are uncomfortable with change? Is it because you have a strong allegiance to a political party or ideology? Or, is it because you long for a world where all wrongs are righted and you get to be in the presence of God? It is ok to be anxious about things in this world, but it is important that we are anxious for the right reasons.

It is equally important that we do not allow our feelings of unease not to get out of hand. Our anxiety should be balanced with a healthy trust in God. Occasionally, you will encounter someone who is upset with the world for all the right reasons, but they are also overcome with fear and panic because they lack faith in God. They see the problem clearly, but they have forgotten we have been given the solution. God will one day return and make all things right. He will deal with sin, death, disease, violence, etc. We are to lament how sin has corrupted the world, but we are also to trust in God to redeem it.

Scripture calls Christians to embrace this feeling of being exiles and strangers. We are not to feel at home because we live in a fallen world. Many things surround us that are not right. We should not be comfortable with sin, death, sickness, violence, poverty, etc. We protest this attack on God’s good creation by living as sojourners. We create alternative communities that war against all that is not right and offer a way of living that is unlike worldly ways that lead to death. We seek God who is the source of blessing and life, and we invite others to join the rebellion.

In Hebrews 11, we are presented with a list of faithful people of God whose lives are described in the Old Testament. In verse 13, their lives are summed up with this one description, “they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” They lived a certain way. They did not try to escape the world, but they were continually reminded that there is something more. They each had a holy longing that pointed to something beyond themselves. They lived in anticipation of what God was going to do. Although they had never prayed the Lord’s Prayer, they worked towards God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. They understood that they could not fix all the world’s problems themselves, but this did not stop them from doing all they could to bring about positive change by living faithfully in a sinful world.

We are exiles and strangers because evil and sin have launched an attack on what once was a perfect creation. The good news is that God has set in motion a plan to redeem what is lost and corrupted. He has invited us to join him in this effort, but we don’t do so by living and acting just like the world. We fight back by living lives that are representative of the life that is to come. This way of living is different. It doesn’t look like what people are used to seeing. It is strange, but it is also an invitation to those who are fed up with the world to look beyond this present reality to a future that is very different to what we have come to expect.

Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

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