The essay that follows is a deviation from the usual form of these devotional works. It represents an attempt on my part to set out some of the thoughts that I have been having about the nature of humanity as God sees us. Although I do intend to continue to explore the topic of refugees for a few more days, I also plan to return to the usual form and structure for those works.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11: 16

 

Definition of refugee

one that flees; especiallya person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution (Meriam-webster.com)

 

We are all refugees at one time or other and in some fashion or manner. No one seems to get through life without needing to flee from something, or at least, without the sense or feeling that this is necessary. Refuge is what we desire, and it is sometimes found. Most of the time, we keep on traveling, drifting, and shifting until our days are done. There are the exceptions to this, those who find a settled form of peace and contentment where they are, but for most of us, the road just continues on ahead without terminus or even a glimpse of that destination’s distant glow. Humanity began all of this tortured travel with the first people as they were sent out from the comfort of their intended home into the troubled landscape to the east.  We have not fully settled in since, and I am not so sure that there is really any place that can be permanently settled in this life until the world is reformed and reclaimed by Christ.

 

So, we are all off on the journey. Some of us are in situations that are far more desperate than are others; yet, sojourners and travelers are we all. The Syrian that has been driven out of a home that was theirs for uncountable generations and the Rohingyas whose national heritage is disputed by everyone in power in their corner of the world are trekking along a path that is closely related to the one that those of us who know nothing but comfort and plenty are also stepping along. I do not wish to make light of the dire and despicable situations that oppressive and evil people and forces have subjected the first of these groups of people to, but I do deliberately want to reflect on the fact that virtually all of us are involved in something of the same odyssey of fear, pain, discovery, and in the end, either hope or defeat.

 

The premise is simple. There is only one place of refuge, just a singular sanctuary city, that can be found by any who will enter into its walls. This is located in a spiritual realm and it operates with an economy that is founded upon faith rather than gold, silver, or precious jewels. We might delude ourselves into thinking that we have found that safe place or that secure fortress within the boundaries that are set out by nation, or leader, or wealth, or even by religion; but, all of these defenses will be breeched by the relentlessly destructive bent of the adversary, and every one of our human and earthly forms of sanctuary will be thrown aside by forces that come straight out of the darkened heart that breathes death and destruction on all who turn toward its mouth of doom.

 

As we set out on out along the personal refugee road that we have chosen or that has selected us, some of the boats that we choose to trust for escape are trustworthy, but others are headed to the bottom of the sea and only a brief period of time forestalls that disaster. On certain journeys, the food and water that were promised to be provided along the way are never there, and starvation and thirst win out over the continuation of life. So, on those days, the ocean or the desert win as they gain new permanent resident souls, and on others, personal strength overcomes and fortune shines upon the travelers. God tells us that there are other ways to be fed in the wilderness, and there are alternative routes that we can take in order to get to a place where the soul can dwell in the hope of eternity. This other course was set in place by way of promise even before those ancestors of ours were sent by God into the harsh terrain of their own design and choosing. When Eve and Adam passed the portal where the flaming sword demonstrated God’s no return policy, they set out along the perilous trail that all seekers of refuge are on.

 

We too live in times wherein we need to keep our bags packed and our loved ones close by. There is tension in the air and impermanence is the nature and the character of our world. Nations are fragile, government is untrustworthy as its leaders are too often liars and deceivers, economic might can collapse in a moment, and strength or power end upon a single misguided step. The Lord tells us to hold the things of this world lightly, to cherish what is eternal and to care about and for the things that He cares about. As Jesus depicted with great clarity, none of the things that God cares about come into being because of earthly power, station, or out of the exercise of might. They are all the sorts of things that can be carried in a light travel bag, and everything that we are to be concerned about was acquired and paid for by Jesus’ blood.

 

So, when we look upon those foreign faces that we reference as refugees, we are simply looking into a form of mirror that allows us to gaze into the unsettled state of our own souls. The language may sound strange and the customs are unfamiliar to our experience, but the heart, the desire for peace and for a place to dwell in security, and all of the rest of the person that is the living image of God, Himself, is present before our eyes. These are people who are to be embraced and cared for. These are lives that are precious to God and who should be held in the highest of regard by everyone. They are in the midst of their own part of the same great migration that I am on and that each of us travels. We are in this sojourn together in that we are all taking steps along a road that starts at birth and that seems to terminate at death but that actually continues into an eternity that exists beyond this world. So, as we encounter people from other places in our world we truly and actually are seeing another form of ourselves.

 

We can choose to embrace them and to share the burden of their journey or we can stand apart, untouched by their tears and the sweat of their trials, unmoved by the violence and the oppression that our world throws at them and that has shattered the sense of well-being that should be a basic right of all people. We can attempt to hold all others at a seemingly safe distance and even attempt to build walls of all sorts around our borders in order to safeguard our world, but this sort of self-guided protection will not be effective and there is nothing in it that is honoring to God and to His creation. God cares about people, and He sees each of us individually and loves every one of us equally. We are called upon by Him to do the same. There are no foreigners, no others, no strangers, and no refugees as separate categories or groups of people in our world. We are all refugees together as we travel from a place of unsettled life and unquiet spirit toward the promise and the hope of God’s redemption and its peace. In Christ we know its source and in God’s Kingdom we experience its dwelling place; so, let’s embrace all others as God’s own beloved co-travelers and invite them in to share the fellowship of our common heritage as God’s beloved children.

And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say just as the Father has told Me.

John 12: 50

 

The primary reason that Jesus was sent by God, the Father, to live among us on earth was to provide a direct, simple, and understandable way to change from the sin-riddled people that we were into ones who were suitable to spend our lives in the presence of God in all of His perfect righteousness. Jesus is the complete expression of who God is, His words provide us with God’s thoughts regarding life that was being lived in the moment; for, as Jesus encountered situations and responded to the people that He met, He spoke God’s truth about living righteously in those times. Still, although spoken in that moment 2,000 years ago, those thoughts are also completely true to this day.

 

God’s truth is eternal, and it is totally contemporary. His words of wisdom and of understanding apply to everyone, and they speak to absolutely every situation and circumstance that life brings our way. Everything that Jesus said and did was a part of a great master plan that God had devised from the beginning of time to bring His people out of the oppression that evil has held us under and into freedom for our souls and for our bodies. Thus, it is necessary to know Jesus in order to have that freedom, and when we do truly know Jesus, we gain eternity.

 

Just as Jesus was commanded by the Father to speak and to live out God’s truth, people who know Him are also commanded to do the same. We can truly know God by living inside of His word and by seeking its direction and wisdom in all areas of life. The more we seek to follow God in everything, the more intimate our relationship with Him will become; then, His mind begins to take over more of our thinking. When this happens, we are doing what Jesus did in that we are bringing eternity into our world, and we are also bringing some small portion of this world closer to its eternal redemption in Christ.

 

 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5: 8

 

What does it mean to be a sinner? Many of us have heard about and even memorized lists of sins, and the consequences that can come our way if we engage in them. These are not good things to think, say, and do; at least that is supposed to be the way that God views it all. In this view of things, sin is bad; so, not sinning is good. This approach tends to set up a form of tension between doing what we want to do and doing what we are informed that God would have us do. There is some truth to this, but this is also an ill-informed understanding of how God actually works and the design of life in His redeemed kingdom come.

 

In God’s perspective, sin is rejection. It comes about as people turn away from Him and from His righteousness in order to think and act as we want without regard for what that might do or cause to happen in the lives of others or in our world. Sin takes people away from God’s designed patterns of engagement with the rest of creation and redesigns the rules so that our own desires are met regardless of the consequences for ourselves or for others. It moves us ever farther away from the love, grace, and mercy that are inherent in God’s creation plan, and sin then builds up barriers between each person and God, and by virtue of God’s implanted image in all people, it also divides us one from another. This thing that is called sin is the singular most destructive force that exists in relationships and especially in that which can be formed between people and our Creator.

 

However, God is not willing to see this world and our lives remain in this state of separation and conflict. He did something about this state of affairs, and the Father did not wait to see how we might act or even for our responses to His approach to us. In advance of anyone’s turning toward Him, God formed a plan for the redemption of all of His creation, and that plan was focused on the restoration of deep and intimate relationship with anyone of us who would accept the opportunity and the offer of grace that was extended. Jesus, God Himself, perfect and blameless, would yield Himself to suffer all that every one of us deserved by way of penalty for our sinfulness. This was planned and executed while we were all still buried in sin and lost to eternity. Christ gave all as an advance to our accounts so that we could freely enter into the redemption of love that God tenders to us. In this new state, Christ works within us to transform our thinking and acting so that the tension of righteousness is reformed into the nature of our being.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15: 58

 

Foe almost anyone who has held a job for any period of time the reality of frustration and discouragement with that work, the workplace, and the working conditions is well known. Although people can get a large amount of satisfaction from work, we also tend to enter into some of our most powerful disappointments there. For people who know what God has said to us, there is little surprise here. During the first hours of humanity’s new existence as people who had separated ourselves from the deep intimacy with God that He had devised, the Lord informed us that our work would be hard and unending and that the produce of that work would tend to be overgrown with the most noxious of weeds.

 

In this scenario our labor does provide us with purpose; however, we will also literally be working ourselves to death. Christ offers another alternative to His followers. Although He does not remove the natural struggle that envelopes our earthly labors as they are infused with the brokenness of sin, He does reshape our responses to it all. The Lord guides us into viewing our efforts as a part of His plan for redemption and for restoration. The work of our hands becomes a part of Christ’s grand narrative of a renewed existence for all of creation. This is made known by the manner in which we respond to and engage with the failure and the frustration of our daily employment regardless of what that may be.

 

In Christ, all that we do, say, and think can be dedicated to Him. The most basic aspects of life can be moments of grand worship, and our daily occupation is redirected from the basics of feeding our bodies into the eternal purpose of touching lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Lord came to bring God’s redemption into the present day lives of all of humanity. Our part in this is not easy, but it is the work that God has called each of His people to do, and as we surrender ourselves to Christ’s will and engage with our days in the power of His Spirit, the ages old futility of our labors is transformed into the glorious produce that comes about because of Christ’s victory.