By Brock Bondurant
Recently, I considered Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A scholar, Bonhoeffer saw turbulent times wash upon his cultural shore. Germany was at the cutting edge of the world, filled with arguably the greatest thinkers, composers, artists, and ideas that the world had ever seen. Yet out of that seemingly flourishing utopia came the world’s poster child of evil. As Nazism spread across the country and the citizens (even many churchgoers) bought in to its agenda, few stood in the way of the steamroller of corruption. Bonhoeffer was one who, on the foundation of Christ, took a firm stand in a spiritual battle (Eph 6:10-20). He lovingly spoke up for his Jewish brothers and sisters, and for the good of all humanity.
What he received for his faithfulness in this world wasn’t pretty. But he continued to follow the Lord even as society seemed to sprint in the other direction.
While we haven’t inherited Bonhoeffer’s times and may not inherit Bonhoeffer’s fate, we can all live out our time as exiles faithfully.
Exiles may seem like a strange word too. But it is a common theme of the Bible. Abraham left all he had. Joseph was sold into slavery in a foreign land. God’s people spent decades in Egypt as slaves and then escaped to exile in the wilderness. Later in the story of the Israelites, many were taken into captivity, having to carve out a life in worldly Babylon.
The New Testament does not hide from this idea either, as Jesus was the dual-exile—leaving Heaven for humanity and living among humans as sinless and fully divine. Jesus did not come to fit in, but to stand out for grace, truth, love, and righteousness. And the Bible’s teachings, based on his life, called Jesus’ followers to follow suit—being not of the world and reminding that they are citizens of Heaven.
So how do we live in the here and now? Rome is not coming for our heads. The Rivers of Babylon are far away. Hitler was rightly defeated. How do we live when the spiritual opposition at work in our world is manifest more subtly?
Following the teachings of Jesus, some answers are easy to say (and much harder to live out): we can bless those who curse us (Luke 6:27-38); we can not succumb to wicked ways (2 Cor 4:1-18); we can endure afflictions through the Holy Spirit and love (2 Cor 6:1-10); we can listen instead of responding in anger and forgive instead of condemning. We can pray for revival in a world ruled by the deceitful schemes of the devil.
We are here for a reason, and called for a reason. Put simply: Love God and love others.
Life promises to be complicated and difficult for the follower of Jesus. Together, in spirit and truth, we can stand firm, continually setting our eyes on a hope beyond this life.
“32Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:32-33.
Take heart exiles. We are forever homeward bound.