Saturday, 9 October 2010

Houses in exile

In the 29th chapter of Jeremiah the prophet encourages the Israelites who have been dragged off to Babylon to settle in for the long haul. To build houses in exile. And, more than this, to seek the welfare of city where they find themselves. This means to seek the welfare of the Babylonians who have dragged them off into exile.

It is in the context of this hardship that the Israelites are directed to recover their faith - to seek God with all their heart, in order that God will allow them to find him again.

As Christians in the West our prosperity can easily divorce us from the reality of such harsh suffering as exiles and from the concept that we too are strangers in a strange land. Does our ease of living mean that we are less like to seek God with all our heart? The decline in numbers in many of churches would seem to indicate that this is the case.

Maybe we need to go and meet Jesus again in the face of those who suffer as refugees. Jesus once declared, "I was hungry and you fed me... I was a prisoner and you visited me", maybe these days he would say "I was in mandatory detention and you visited me".

In meeting people such as these we might rediscover what it means to be people who live as strangers in this world awaiting a coming kingdom. To walk alongside them as the build houses in their experience of exile might also cause us to pause and think again about what sort of houses we are building in exile as Christians - exculsive holy clubs or the body of Christ?

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