Monday, October 22, 2012

Growing as a Foreigner

 "But our citizenship is in heaven."—Philippians 3:20

Recently, while I was reading on my front porch, I noticed the sounds of East Indian music playing from a house four doors down the street. I overheard conversations between parents and children that I could not understand but obviously came from the second largest country in the world. This caused me to reflect further upon the reality that Jesus followers are called "foreigners and exiles" in 1 Peter. (See previous post on this topic.) My neighbors from half way around the world have been socialized to live in a certain way and now they are surrounded by a totally different way of life, that of Houston, Texas.

For three years, I lived in Vancouver, B.C. When I arrived people told me that I would experience culture shock, that I would find it hard to connect with the way of life common to Canadians. I could not understand this. After all, we look very similar, we speak the same language and we share a very long boarder. In fact, about 90% of all Canadians live within a few hundred miles of the U.S./Canada boarder.

However, I did experience culture shock. The differences between our two countries are subtle, but they are very real and significant. Canadians are a very distinct people, and my being a Texan—and a rather brash one at that—I often felt like a red marble in a bowl of white pearls.

Over time, I learned to connect with my Canadian friends as I lived, ate, and worshipped with them. But my Americanish ways never went away. I was a foreigner. However, the longer I lived there, the less I felt like a foreigner.

The opposite is true with regard to following Jesus. The longer I follow Jesus the more I feel like a foreigner. My citizenship is in heaven. This is not my home. I'm being socialized by the Holy Spirit so that my "not fitting in" experience is actually growing. I'm finding that the more I listen to the leading of the Spirit and allow the Trinity to form me into the life that reflects God's heart, the less I stand with the common trends of the culture, even those trends that get labeled as Christian. This is less about what I do and more about the wooing of the love of God and my simply responding to that love.

How have you seen this occur in your walk with Jesus?


Dan Benson said...

One way, a "bad" way, we become a foreigner, I think, as we "grow" in Jesus is that we're also "growing" as a member of the Christian/church subculture. We hang around with church people, more of our free time is spent doing church things, we start speaking a church language (my wife calls it Christian ebonics, we listen to church music, we stop engaging culture from outside the church. When we start living in the church ghetto like that, separating ourselves from our neighbors and the community at large, it becomes more difficult to be friends of sinners like Jesus was. My wife and I are trying right now to break out of the holy huddle and be a friend to those sinners by hanging out with friends and neighbors who don;t go to church, cutting back on church activity so we have more time to spend with them and getting involved in our community.

Scott Boren said...

Great point Dan. Been there done that. In my experience, this escapist approach is just another form of a club mentality which actually resembles the ways of the world. Cliques are the way of the principalities and powers of this world. It's sad that the church has used this as a means of creating Christian cliques.