community through exile
So far we have spoken about how a Christian makes God his Wall by pursuing a relationship with Him. This relationship re-defines the Christian’s identity and forces her into war against herself. Now we will disuss the second thing that immediately happens when God becomes the wall: separation from the world.
The truth of this separation is reflected in the isolation of John the greatest prophet
… Is Over
After the honeymoon comes the return to the world full of passion towards God, His Rule and His Love. We expect everyone to be excited as we are. What do we find instead? Well John the Baptist found prison and death at the hands of a teenage girl
You see, when I make God my wall through an exclusive relationship with Him, I am not just separated from the world. That would be mild and almost passive. No you can see that in the lives of all saints, there is a violent rejection by the world of anyone who makes a decision to make God their ruler. Our societies and communities ultimately will not tolerate men and women who refuse to build their walls and boundaries with the brick of idolatry and the mortar of self. That we should declare that all are wicked and God who is Righteous gave His Son to save us is the most dangerous truth ever spoken and essentially signs our death warrant. Even now when “everyone” is a Christian, this death from the world is still present and takes on different, more insidious forms. Yet exile is still exile and death is still the same old vicious death.
And so we are kicked out, pushed out, persecuted and even physically killed. We are pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed
Very simple, our wall is strong. It is not for nothing that the Psalmist constantly refers to God as a shield and fortress
However, the world forces us away and would even force us out of the world completely. To seclude ourselves in a monastery, nunnery or church building then is to give up and allow the world victory. Seclusion is not exile. Exile comes when we are actively repelled by the world. We cannot be repelled by the world when we have taken ourselves out of it. Jesus commands us to remain in the world even though we are clearly not of it
Therefore, Hebrews encourages us to go out of the camp and join Jesus in His Exile
Community Through Exile
This exile is palpable. The loneliness and wandering is thick at all times. Sometimes, it seems to have more substance than faith. Where is the brother? Where is the sister? Our insides are unfamiliar since we have given up our old identity. The world around us rejects us. So then where is our identity to be found. Where shall we be grounded again?
In What it means to be a Christian, we explaind that a Christian is anyone that exists in community with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God is a Father to the fatherless
Now we look around some more and see that all around us are those who have also been driven out into exile because they believed in Jesus. These are our brothers and sisters. With these people we can discuss and commiserate. We can weep and rejoice for these brothers and sisters understand spiritually what it means to “dance, for the joy of surviving, on the edge of the road” Kunitz, Old Cracked Tune. This community with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and other believers is known as the Church. The Church then is a community of those exiled from the world through their relationship with God.
The Church is not a community of those seeking to establish themselves in the world. It is a community of those who suffer because they seek to establish the rule of God in their own lives and are encouraging their neighbors to do the same. Now we see that God uses the force that would repel us to help create a new community (the Church) in which our new identities can thrive and grow. Note that the Church is not yet a community of victors and therefore should not seek to legislate morality through culture or law for the sake of her own comfort.
Through the law, she may seek to cover the shame of her neighbors but only in love and only for their sake. When she tries to do it for her own comfort or to “hurry along” the Kingdom of God, she has left her exile and needs to repent. She is the Church and she remains whole through the force the world is trying to use to eradicate her. She should rightly appear to the world as a collection of the ostracized. It is not her job to be dressed up and gaudy in appearance. Her job is to find herself in her Lord. She is to be as naked and bloody as her Lord, the Truth, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.