So I’ve been reading Exile: A Conversation with N. T. Wright and this isn’t so much a book review as it is a musing over the topic of exile, the Church and the individual. For me, the theme of exile in the Bible hasn’t always been something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I’ve always had a vague understanding that as Christians, this current age and world isn’t our final destination, that we are foreigners, sojourners, pilgrims, living in this “land” doing what we can for the Kingdom as we await its final consummation at the second coming of Jesus. The idea has always been at the back of my mind, but I’ve never really given a lot of thought to how it informs the life I live in the here and now, how it might affect my experience of both the local and universal Church, how it might affect me. So then, let’s explore what the theme of exile in the Bible is.
Exile simply defined from good old Google is “the state of being barred from one’s native country, typically for political or punitive reasons.” A pretty good definition, we can even map this onto the Biblical narrative. Almost the entire Old Testament is a story about how God’s people in the nation of Israel are constantly being enslaved to foreign nations, taken out of their land and placed in others only to repeat the cycle again and again. For the Jews Egpyt, Babylon and the Grecco-Roman empire were their worst enemy’s enslaving them, exiling them and ruling over them. For the Christian however, we are exiles living in a world that tries to enslave us to our idols, to our sin, and to satan. We are pilgrims and workers burdened with the joyous task to go about bringing peace and shalom to the world through the Gospel and our good works. Unfortunately, those things that ensnare often get the better of us. We might not be under imperial oppression (some of us literally are) but the crushing weight of this world renders us feeling useless, worthless, broken and beat. We are enslaved to a kingdom unseen, to a power that can’t be perceived. There is, however, a greater power, a greater kingdom that offers peace instead of chaos, that offers wholeness instead of brokenness, that offers life instead of death. This can only be found in Jesus.