Living As “Aliens and Strangers”

What’s the first word you think of when you hear the word “stranger?”

For many, the answer is “danger.” Of course, there are good reasons that we warn small children not to trust those unknown to them, but sometimes even as adults—perhaps even as a society—our first reaction to those who are different than us is to suspect they could be a potential threat.

The Bible calls for a different approach to strangers. The Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, literally means “the love of strangers.” We tend to think about hospitality as having our friends over for a meal—but so long as it is our friends whom we are entertaining, it is not genuine hospitality, at least in the original sense of the word.

The Bible never promises that all strangers are safe, but nevertheless we are commanded repeatedly to love them. When we do so, the book of Hebrews suggests, we may just be welcoming an angel without realizing it. Those whom some in our society presume to be a threat could actually be a blessing.

Another key biblical teaching about “strangers” is that, if we profess to follow Jesus, we are strangers. Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all use the idea of immigration as a metaphor for what it means to be a Christian. Our primary identity—superseding our allegiance to our country, our city, our family, or any other entity—is as citizens of heaven, and that means that we ought never to fully “fit in” on earth.

While it is appropriate to be grateful for and loyal to our country, we must be careful never to conform fully to the culture around us, because our ultimate home is elsewhere. Refugees—who, even as they integrate into a new country, often carry in their hearts a longing for the country they were forced to leave behind—have much to teach us about what it means to follow Jesus, living and seeking the good of this land while always conscious of our true homeland.

Reflection Questions:

1. How might the biblical command to hospitality—to love strangers—inform how you respond to refugees who arrive in your community?

2. If your first allegiance is to God’s kingdom above any country on earth, how might your views toward foreigners be different than those who are not Christians?

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Go and Make Disciples…

Shortly before ascending into heaven, Jesus left His disciples with a final charge: to make disciples of all nations. As recorded in the book of Acts, Jesus clarifies that this command has both local and global implications: while the church can and must cross international borders, we also must live out the Great Commission in our own neighborhoods. The arrival of refugees into our communities presents a remarkable opportunity to live out the Great Commission.

That opportunity is not an accident: Scripture makes clear that God is sovereign over the moment of people towards an end: so that people whom He created and loves would find their way into relationship with Him. God has a sovereign purpose in the migration of people, and He invites His church to join Him in that work.

God is at work in multiple directions through the migration of refugees and other immigrants. On one hand, many of those who migrate are already strong believers, and they became powerful agents of mission, sharing the good news with those in their own ethnic communities and beyond.

Others, though, are not yet Christians. In fact, by one analysis, there are more unreached people groups present within the boundaries of the United States than in any other country besides India and China—and many of those individuals arrive as refugees. As we love, serve, and advocate with these refugees, we will often be asked what motivates us, and we can point people to the hope within us that comes from a transformative relationship with Jesus.

This opportunity underscores why it is so important to examine the realities of refugees and migration through a biblical lens. A recent survey from LifeWay Research suggests that most American evangelical Christians are missing this opportunity: only a minority said that the arrival of refugees or other immigrants presents “an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers few: there are many who do not yet know Jesus right within our communities, but too few of their neighbors ready to live out Jesus’ Great Commission locally.

Reflection Questions:

1. When you think about the arrival of refugees, have you seen an opportunity? Why or why not?

2. How could you extend welcome and kindness to refugees in such a way that might open opportunities to share your faith?

WHO WE ARE – 1 PETER 2:9-12

Persecution of Christians was very intense during the early days of the Christian faith. Christians were dispersed throughout “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1). They wondered how to live while surrounded by disdain in a world that was not really home. The apostle Peter reminded them who they were, of their great identity as followers of Christ. His words are true of all who belong to Christ.

Read 1 Peter 2:9-12 and notice the phrases that describe our identity, such as “chosen race.”

CHOSEN RACE

Just as God chose Israel in the Old Testament to set His affection upon, God has set His love and affection upon you. You belong to Him because of His promise to you, not because of your goodness. As chosen people, we should rejoice that we belong to Him.

ROYAL PRIESTHOOD

When God instituted the tabernacle system, only the high priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place and be in the presence of God. But now we are royal priests. Christ’s death opened a new and living way for us to enter into God’s presence anytime, anywhere. As royal priests, we should enjoy His presence.

HOLY NATION

God adopted and set Israel apart as His own. As Christians, God has formed us as a new people and declared us to be holy. Because He is holy and has declared us to be holy, we are to live holy lives.

PEOPLE FOR HIS POSSESSION

We no longer belong to ourselves. We are His, which is far better than being slaves to our sin and slaves to ourselves.

STRANGERS AND TEMPORARY RESIDENTS

Peter reminded believers that the reason we often feel like we don’t fit in this world is because we don’t. This world is no longer our home. We are to live good lives so that those far from God may observe us and, by God’s grace, be brought to faith in Christ. Then they will join us in glorifying God when He returns.

He is returning. When He does, all that is wrong will be made right. And those who know Him will spend eternity with Him. Until then, we live in a world that is not ours on a mission He has given us. Because of who we are, we are to declare His praises and live honorably among those who do not know Him.

Hearing God Speak Part Six

In this text God commands us not to be spiritual fatalists. The word for long here is very simply the word desire — it’s a command to desire.

What this means is that if you feel stuck because you don’t have the kind of spiritual desires that you should, this text says, You do not need to be stuck!It says, Get them! Get the desires you don’t haveIf you don’t desire the milk of the Word, start desiring it!

Now, that is amazing. A command to desire! A command to feel longings we do not feel. A command to feel desires we do not have. Is anything more contrary to spiritual fatalism than that? Fatalism says, I can’t just create desires. If they’re not there, they’re not there. If I don’t feel things the way the psalmists seem to feel things when they say, “;As a deer pants for the flowing streams so my soul pants for you, O God’ (Psalm 42:1) — if I don’t feel that way toward God, then that’s that. I just don’t. I’m not like the psalmists. That’s the dangerous voice of spiritual fatalism.

But God says, Desire the pure milk of the word! Now before you raise all kinds of objections, like, How can you command me to have a desire? What can I do to obey a command like that? How do I just produce a desire? You may as well tell a lame man to walk.

Can you imagine such a thing — commanding a lame man to walk? Who could do such a thing? We know. Let us ask God to create in us the miracle of longing for his word.

God has Given You First Place in His Heart

What would you think if someone told you that God sees you as if you have never sinned? The fact is, because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, that is exactly how God sees you. As Christians, we are forgiven, cleansed and free!

That means you are a saint: one who has attained a special standing of righteousness in Christ. You are perfect, holy and blameless in God’s eyes. He calls you His child, an heir to His abundance, and His friend.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

Truly understanding how God sees us begins with how we see Him. God is not watching from a distance just waiting for us to make a mistake in order to punish us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider what this verse says:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

God sees each of us as His own precious child. He is a loving Father showering favor and care to us out of His endless compassion. Some scriptures in the Song of Solomon illustrate the incredible intensity of God’s love for us by comparing it to the intimate love of a husband and wife. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God is a rewarder of those who seek him.

God sees each of His children in a profoundly different way than most of us see ourselves. Understanding how God sees each one of us is founded upon the work that Christ began in our lives the moment we received salvation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21

This new creation is God’s divine work; a complete transformation of our spiritual condition and inner person. He has completely forgiven and cleansed us from our sin – past, present and future. We are in right relationship with Him.

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.” Psalm 103: 12

We are God’s people presented to Him without any blemish of sin; truly as His righteousness through the work that Jesus did on the cross. God has indeed given us first place in His heart!

Share – How to spread the Good News

One of the first steps we all should take as followers of Jesus is to be baptized. This is how we follow Jesus’ example of being baptized and how we publicly proclaim that we are followers of Him. It is an illustration of how we identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This does not save us as no works of our own can do that. Being baptized is an important symbol of what has happened to our lives and hearts as someone that has trusted Jesus.

We are called by Jesus to share the Good News and make disciples of others. It is not a suggestion or an option but a command. We know this sounds scary and it is hard to think about how to talk about God with those that may not know or believe in Him. Therefore, start with some basics.

We must live our life genuinely in service to God so we are not seen as hypocrites. Start praying for those you want to share with and that you believe don’t know Jesus. Keep in mind that you are not asked to save anyone but rather share the Gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can open eyes and hearts to God’s truth.

When you get that opportunity to bring this up, don’t be afraid. God is with you and wants to help. Don’t feel like you need to know the answer to every question. Focus on sharing your story and the difference God has made in your life. Use simple words in explaining how we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness.

Use “we” and “us” to let them know you are no different and just blessed enough to have heard the Good News and accepted Jesus. Don’t expect results immediately. Be faithful and let God use you in the amazing process of Him revealing himself to others. Finally, you have no idea how long God has been working on you, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while with others.

Worship – How we are created to praise God

Going to church does not save us, but we are called by God to gather together. The temptation for many is to use the resources that are found online or elsewhere, and meet with other believers, but skip the idea of going to church. Church is where true worship as a community of believers occurs. It is where ministry can happen in a way different than any individual or small group can deliver.

As we grow closer to Jesus Christ, we should develop a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers. In fact, it is not just a nice suggestion but something the Bible tells us is God’s will for us.

We encourage you to find a good Bible-teaching church. Review their statement of faith and visit to experience what they are about. Ask about membership requirements and baptism to understand their beliefs and how they view God’s word. Don’t think of it as who can offer the best coffee or coolest music. There is nothing wrong with those things, but they are not the point. Look for a place where you can become part of a community that will help you grow closer to God and worship him well.