return­ing through exile

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 us John 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 Ecclesiastes 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.

“… Morn­ing by morn­ing He Awak­ens; He Awak­ens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”
- Isaiah 50:4

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.