Monday, April 26, 2010

Citizens of Heaven: Exiles or Colonists?

Christians are citizens of Heaven. There's not any serious debate among Christians about the truth of this claim, but the interpretation, however, is quite another story. The Crusades were carried out in the name of the Kingdom. Fundamentalists are charged with culpability for global warming for their angle. Even the emerging church is in large part divided by their views on this. I typically prefer to avoid shaping a personal opinion on debates of this kind, but I cannot by any stretch deny that one's interpretation of this truth will have profound effects upon the way his or her life is lived. I'll therefore attempt to lay out the dualistic landscape as I see it and maybe that will serve as sufficient conceptual geography for a healthy battle, the outcome of which I hope will mean victory for all who enlist. 
  • Exiles - If we view ourselves as Citizens of Heaven, temporarily exiled in this foreign land but ultimately destined to escape this pagan place and finally return "home," that's going to affect how we live. We will not invest much of our resources in this land, our daily activities instead reflecting interest in different place. I have some friends who are staying in a temporary sublet while their seminary housing is refurbished. I doubt they will hang pictures or even unpack any more boxes than they have to until they move to a more permanent abode. To the exile, we remain on earth but for a missional purpose: to offer citizenship in heaven to the indigenous peoples of earth before they (and their planet) are destroyed and we are called home to live with the King.
  • Colonists - If we view ourselves as Citizens of Heaven, dispatched as colonists of a conquering Kingdom and charged with beginning the conversion of all on earth to reflect life as it is in Heaven, this too will affect how we live. We will conduct ourselves as ambassadors and heralds of the coming regime, allowing the natives the opportunity to naturalize or be destroyed. I have another set of friends who have intentionally moved into a forgotten part of town as an attempt to revitalize the community. They invest their lives in making the world around them come to life as a result of their hope. To the colonist, we are dispatched to this earthly outpost to begin the redemptive process that will be consummated when the King returns to establish His City on Earth. 
No doubt most of us hold a blended view to an extent, but that begs the question that forces one to draw a line: will we ultimately escape earth or conform her?

6 comments:

Halcyon said...

"...will we ultimately escape earth or conform her?"

In my usual frustrating style, I would say that the answer is both. We will "escape," but that escape will be initiated and completed by the conformation (re: transformation) of earth.

We are "exiled," but that exile is not spatial in nature (we're here, but we should be there); rather, it is ontological in nature (things are this, but they should be that). Thus, our "escape" will be an ontological escape and not a spatial one. To put it another (and simpler) way, we are exiles who aren't going anywhere. Redemption is ultimately transformation, not relocation.

Of course, as good Christians, we understand that true transformation is done ultimately by God, not us. This is where the issue gets tricky. On the one hand, God can actively work in someone's life to enact transformation right now in their immediate surroundings; we've seen it plenty of times. On the other hand, the final and ultimate transformation (the one hinted at in Rom. 8:18-23) is a product of God alone; it is a product of grace and not works. We are used for immediate transformation, but there is a greater transformation to come that we look for.

SO, I would say in the end that we are ontological exiles who need to act like colonists. Put that on a T-shirt and sell it. 8^)

Halcyon said...

P.S. (On a more personal and less philosophical note): The problem with making this issue an either/or situation is that we wind up with two kinds of extremism.

On the one hand, fundamentalists (of which I grew up around) can be "so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good," so the saying goes. They're so obsessed with defining evangelism as solely soul-winning that they seem to overlook (or even find reasons to condemn) either the immediate and earthly suffering and plight of people or the corruption and ugliness of the culture at-large. Consequently they seem to be completely inconsequential to a fallen world that is in immediate pain and sorrow.

On the other hand, emergent types can be so earthly minded that they produce two very ironic (and perhaps unconscious) symptoms: (1) they seem to almost ignore or trivialize the world to come, carrying an almost materialistic/atheistic contempt for the subject; (2) they seem to embody a new kind of legalism, where your Christianity is measured against how much social work you have done (this was spawning like mad in Crichton during the waning administrative days of He Who Shall Not Be Named). This is probably why this brand of Christianity gets so easily entangled with poisonous liberal politics: salvation becomes a product of what we (Christians) do for others rather than what God does in them. Consequentially, they are indistinguishable from the solutions and notions of the fallen world that they are supposed to be helping.

Both of these extremes miss the point. The first misses that fact that we are IN the world, i.e., we are (for now) a part of its societies, communities, and cultures. The things that we do have real and far reaching effects in the lives of others, so we should strive to be Christ-like all our days in everything that we do. The second extreme misses the fact that we are NOT OF this world. Our solutions, tactics, notions, and final hope lie beyond this world, lie in God and nowhere else. The things that we do can be used by God for people's good and His glory, but those things will never take the place of the thing that He has done (on the Cross) or the thing that He will do (at the Second Coming).

ElderChild said...

What of The NEW Covenant, and The New Covenant "Jew"(Brethren of The Messiah)?
------------
Jer 31:31-37 "Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS IN THE TIME THAT I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO BRING THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT FOR THEY BROKE THAT COVENANT, although I was an husband unto them, says YHWH: (Thankfully no longer natural "fathers" but YHWH, "Our Father" in "the NEWness of The Spirit not the letter")

But this shall be the NEW covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says YHWH, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts(not in stone, but in their heart consciousness); and I will be their Elohim, and they shall be MY people. ("Come Out of her, MY people"! Come out of this world and it's systems of religion)

And every man shall no longer teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know YHWH", for they shall all know ME, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says YHWH: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Thus says YHWH, which gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divides the sea when the waves thereof roar; YHWH of hosts is HIS name:

If those ordinances depart from before ME, says YHWH, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before ME for ever.

Thus says YHWH; If Heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says YHWH."
------------

The NEW Covenant established The Truth that, "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, whose circumcision is that of the flesh, he is a Jew who is one inwardly, whose circumcision is of the heart" as he was immersed in, of, by and through The Holy, Set Apart Spirit that is of The ONE and Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL. And all gentile NEW Covenant Believers are "grafted into The Good olive tree", they are of The NEW Covenant Jews.......

And The NEW Covenant Israel?

"A Holy nation".......

Heavenly and Spiritual, not earthly or of the wicked worldly nations!

"A nation of kings and priests" indeed and Truth, and all New Covenant Believers are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" whose "citizenship (Life) is in Heaven".......

They are not of this wicked, evil world and it's systems of religion because they have taken heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D, Father (Creator) of ALL to "Come out of her, MY people".......

The NEW Covenant Believers are those who follow The Messiah for they have taken heed unto The Call to "Come Out" of this wicked world, and they have have "set their affections on things above, Heavenly things"....... No longer are they of those "whose god is their bellies, and whose glory is in their shame, because they mind earthly things". They are no longer of those who "love this world and their own life in, and of it"....... (continued)

ElderChild said...

Sadly, there are multitudes who profess a belief in The Messiah with their mouth only for they are "friends of this world" because they "love this world and it's things" ;-( And so it is that they "love their own life in and of the world" ;-( Such is not The Will of "Our Father" .......

And those who do not seek and desire to do The Will of "Our Father" and "Come Out" of this world(babylon) will hear those woe filled words, "Depart from Me all you workers of iniquity" because "the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth.......

Thankfully The NEW Covenant Believers, The Brethren of The Messiah, have their "citizenship(Life) in Heaven" for they are "A Holy nation" of "kings and priests", all of whom are thankful that, that which was "decaying and waxing old" DID "vanish away" with the destruction of the natural, earthly kingdom centered in jerusalem. The old covenant did indeed vanish away, The NEW Covenant WAS, IS and always WILL BE!

At the time the old covenant vanished away "THY Kingdom" DID "Come" and IS, for The Messiah delivered up The Kingdom unto His G-D and Father(Creator), and The Kingdom of The Only True G-D in Heaven WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE.......

No longer old, natural, earthly and temporal, The Kingdom of The Only True G-D WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE NEW, Spiritual, Heavenly and Eternal.......

And so it is that yesterday, today, and if there be a tomorrow, that "the chosen ones", "the elect", The NEW Covenant Believer, the Spiritual Jew, "The Brethren of The Messiah", continue to "fight the good fight of Faith" as they but seek and desire that which is NEW, Spiritual, Heavenly and Eternal.......

So it is they "forsake all" and "suffer the loss of all things".......

Father Help! and HE does.......

So The Brethren of The Messiah rejoice!

Giving All Thanks, Praise and Glory Unto The ONE and Only True Living G-D, Father (Creator) of ALL.......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(lies) that is of this wicked world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth....... francis

Halcyon said...

ElderChild

Eh...right, whatever. 8^/

ElderChild said...

There is hope that there would be those reading this who have "seen" organized 'religion' for what it is, and not what it pretends to be, and have realized, not just read, that "the natural man does not receive the things that are of The Spirit of G-D, for they are foolishness unto him and he can not know them, for the things that are of The Spirit of G-D need to be Spiritually discerned".......

As for "Pure And Undefiled Religion".......

"Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father is this, to visit the fatherless (those children who know not their Father, HE WHO is The Only True G-D, Father{Creator} of ALL) and widows(those who are not joined together as One with The Messiah, His Brethren and Our Father) in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world."(James1:27)

Simply, all other religion is impure and defiled.......

And notice that "pure and undefiled" religion is "oneself(individual)", The Brethren of The Messiah doing The Will of Our Father, as they are led by The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit.......

Simply, corporate "religion" is pagan and of this wicked world ;-(

"Brethren" is not "religion", for what are The Brethren of The Messiah and sons of Our Father if not Family?

And would not The Family of The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL, "The Body of The Messiah", be much closer than a natural, fleshly family?

And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on "The Narrow Way" have had to "forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters" and all others who will not follow The Messiah because they "love this wicked world and their own life in and of it".......

The Brethren of The Messiah have "forsaken all for The Kingdom of Heaven's sake".......

They are truly "strangers and pilgrims while on the earth".......

Father Help! and HE does.......

What is declared to be "religion" today is the 'd'evil's playground indeed.......

Simply, Faith will not create a system of religion.......

Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to "Come Out of her, MY people"!

For they will "Come Out" of this wicked world(babylon) and it's systems of religion, and enter into "the glorious Liberty of The Children of The Only True G-D".

And so it is that they will no longer be of those who are destroying the earth(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Mercy, Grace, Miracles,,, All that is Truly Good).......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" (1John5:19) indeed and Truth.......

Truth IS, a lie is not.......

Abide in The Truth....... francis