God's Foreigners

American citizens are polarized politically. Many young voters flirt with dreamy socialist promises to provide everything. Others feel angry and disenfranchised and listen to flamboyant fascist rhetoric that promises to “make Christianity powerful again.” Christianity is never powerful by society’s standards. God’s power is made perfect in human weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Instead of being drawn into bi-polar political disfunction, God’s people are called to be foreigners in this world. Only people who live spiritually distinct but not socially segregated can bless the world. Here we have no lasting city (Hebrews 13:14) because our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)

In the early Christian movement, pagan onlookers observed Christ’s followers as a “third race.” Christians were not predictably partisan on the Right or the Left. But don't take it from a donkey's mouth! Read this description of Christians:

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life … With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. 

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose [discard, abort] them. They share their meals, but not their wives.  

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, yet they live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult…

… In general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body … The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”

Excerpted from a letter to Diognetus, probably late 2nd century