ArticlesPoetry Aug 6, 2015 Returning Through Exile
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Creator and author,

God is our wall. We have found a new iden­ti­ty. We have found a com­mu­ni­ty that loves us. We have found a God, Almighty and Pow­er­ful, ex­iled along side us. Why should we not stay here? Why should we not re­cline in the com­fort of be­liev­ers and in the Pres­ence of One Lord, Mind and Spir­it? It is nat­ur­al and NOT spir­i­tu­al to do as Pe­ter asked and build a tem­ple Matthew 17:4. But our Lord, gets up from amidst His Church and as if sud­den­ly, but def­i­nite­ly to our alarm, He is walk­ing to­wards the very peo­ple that kicked Him out and threat­ened to kill Him.

Doesn’t He re­mem­ber that they threat­ened to kill Him John 11:8?!!! But let us be care­ful not to pull Him back like Pe­ter tried to do Matthew 16:22? Let us be care­ful to pro­claim Him as Lord in­stead of deny­ing Him like Pe­ter Luke 22:54-57. If He is tru­ly our Lord, we should obey Him and fol­low Him close­ly in spite of the sure death that awaits usJohn 11:16. For He is the One that builds us into a tem­ple Matthew 16:18.

To Keep Her Alive

So why does Je­sus re­turn to the world that tried to kill Him and why does He com­mand us to fol­low Him Matt 16:24, Mark 16:15? Je­sus re­turns to the world for the sake of the Church and for the sake of the world. He un­der­stands that the Church grows by split­ting, that her rest is found only in suf­fer­ing and that she lives by dy­ing Matt 16:25, John 12:24, Acts 4:1-4, 8:1-4. She can­not ex­ist in this world ex­cept through ex­ile. Op­po­si­tion is the dress that re­veals her fig­ure. She ad­vances but only by be­ing pushed away Matt 16:18. She gains hon­or through shame. She is hat­ed for her love.

Suf­fer­ing yet over­flow­ing with joy. Cursed yet bless­ing. Stabbed yet still em­brac­ing. Ex­iled yet ever re­turn­ing. Im­pris­oned and fenced in but in­ex­plic­a­bly free. This is who He knows she is. He un­der­stands that she is the light of the world and so, para­dox­i­cal­ly, her bright­ness and beau­ty is most vis­i­ble in the dark­ness. But she can­not un­der­stand her na­ture in the ab­sence of op­po­si­tion. She can­not see her­self as light in the ab­sence of dark­ness. Op­po­si­tion, ex­ile, per­se­cu­tion and death are the preser­v­a­tives and lifeblood of the church. In the ab­sence of these things, she will be­have as wicked­ly as the world Isa 58:1-4.

And so, at least for now, the Church can­not know her­self or be her­self ex­cept as an ex­ile in the world. There­fore, she can nev­er be a club or a holy hud­dle. She ceas­es to know she is Holy when she hud­dles be­cause she will sud­den­ly find that her Ho­li­ness, Je­sus Christ, has left to go back into the world. Of what use is the tem­ple when the glo­ry has de­part­ed 1 Sam 4:21, Ex­o­dus 33:3?

To Call His Own From The World

So why does Je­sus re­turn to the world that tried to kill Him and why does He com­mand us to fol­low Him Matt 16:24, Mark 16:15? Je­sus re­turns to the world for the sake of the Church and for the sake of the world. The world con­tin­u­ous­ly re­peats its cy­cles of dis­cov­ery and de­struc­tion. Every pre­ced­ing gen­er­a­tion thinks they have fig­ured out how to avoid the mis­takes of the pre­vi­ous one. Our lat­est in­vent­ed sav­ior is tech­nol­o­gy. By it we shall con­quer every dis­ease and even death!

But Solomon has right­ly said there is noth­ing new un­der the sun Ec­cle­si­ates 1:9 and Habakkuk is right­ly be­wil­dered by those who seek sal­va­tion from the works of their hand Habakkuk 2:18-20. As long as we’re mak­ing our own gods and as long we are try­ing to save our­selves, then fail­ure and de­struc­tion is just around the cor­ner. Our sal­va­tion has to come from out­side and above our­selves. This is what God of­fers when He tells us He is our Lord Eze 20:5-7. But how will peo­ple know this un­less they are told Ro­mans 10:13-17? So if the Church does not re­turn to the world, then no one will ever know that they can be saved and all oth­ers will per­ish.

Of course not every­one will lis­ten. To some we(the Church) smell like death and to oth­ers we smell like life 2 Cor 2:15-17. This truth of God’s rule that we bring to the world is poi­son to some and a salve to oth­ers. Some will sub­mit to God’s rule so that the gospel brings them life and some will refuse God so that they judge them­selves by re­fus­ing to hear and be­lieve. It is not our job to know ahead of time who will lis­ten and who will not. Just as the church is re­vealed by op­po­si­tion, so also, those who will be be­liev­ers are re­vealed by their re­sponse to the gospel. The gospel is this, “God is King. Every­one has re­fused Him and have be­come wicked and de­serv­ing of death for this. He has sent His Son to die on our be­half. All who be­lieve in Him will be saved”.

A Suit Of Fig Leaves

There is one last rea­son for which Je­sus leads the Church back into the world. When Adam and Eve sinned and re­al­ized they were naked, they made for them­selves a suit of fig leaves to cov­er their naked­ness. God, though, came along and made them clothes out of leather. The Church con­tin­ues to act like that robe that God made by cov­er­ing the shame and naked­ness of the world.

Love cov­ers a mul­ti­tude of sins and love re­veals sin and naked­ness by cov­er­ing it up 1 Pe­ter 4:8, Eph­esians 4:15. We pre­serve and add fla­vor to a rot­ting and bit­ter world Matthew 5:13-14. We of­fer light in an oth­er­wise dark place. With­out the pres­ence of the church, the evils in the world would mul­ti­ply un­op­posed. But be­cause we be­lieve in Je­sus, out of us flow rivers of liv­ing wa­ter John 7:38 to bring to life those dy­ing peo­ple and sys­tems all around us.

This means that we bring life at our jobs, in our gov­ern­ments, in our com­mu­ni­ties, among the sick, among the de­pressed, through in­no­va­tions in tech­nol­o­gy, through art, through sci­ence, through mu­sic, through law, through bet­ter ide­olo­gies and on and on and on. We bring all the works of our hands and all the thoughts of our minds into sub­mis­sion be­fore God so that these works and thoughts might bring life to many. Our God caus­es the rain to fall on the God­ly and un­God­ly and we are the min­is­ters of that grace, the chan­nels for that rain Matt 5:45, John 7:38, Job 38:25, 28:26-28.

In Con­clu­sion

So right now, even be­fore judg­ment, now we Chris­tians are called to beau­ti­fy this world and re­deem and cov­er and hold it to­geth­er. We are called to cov­er the world’s in­ad­e­qua­cies in love. We do this be­cause that is what our Fa­ther in heav­en does. He cov­ers the world at least for mer­cy and for oth­er mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons. On the one hand, the world re­jects us be­cause we de­clare God as King and on the same hand, life is sweet­er in the world be­cause we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

This is even more dan­ger­ous to the world. For even as we are be­ing stepped on, we leave a fra­grance on the heels that crush us(:Mark Twain). Or as Je­sus said, we do not curse but bless Matt 5:44, Ro­mans 12:14 in both word and ac­tion. We go the ex­tra mile though we were only co­erced to go one Matt 5:41. And there­by, we heap coals upon the heads of those who would would hate us Prov 25:21-22, Ro­mans 12:19-21 and yet shine all the brighter for those who would be be­liev­ers Isa­iah 60:1, Daniel 12:3, Isa­iah 58:6-10.

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“Knowledge is any relationship we experience through our relationship with Jesus Christ.”

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