by: James Green
Last weekend, Matt spoke about living as an exile, outlining some “do’s” and “don’ts” in unpacking a great passage from Jeremiah. One of the illustrations he referenced (when he was discussing how the Babylonian’s would take over an area) made me think of a story about how Young Life ministry came to acquire their camp property in Oregon.
Seems there was a radical group of folks who had established a compound and a following out in the desert area. This group desired to take over political power in the region and the strategy was to have representatives win all of the local elections. Sadly, the tactic they decided to use to accomplish their plan was to eliminate anyone who stood in their way. So, the day before voting was to take place – they tried to poison the salad bars at all the restaurants in the surrounding towns! Clearly the thinking was that if they kept their folks away from green leafy vegetables – and everyone else in the area ate restaurant salad – the opposition would be too sick or too dead to vote – and they would win!
In news that would have to make you feel better about our homeland security – this radical group was already being monitored by the FBI and they came in and arrested all of them after the salad bar incident. The “compound” was seized by the government and bought by a family that then donated the property to Young Life (along with the baggage of …”hey, didn’t your place use to be the headquarters for the salad bandits?”).
The reality is that we will encounter lots of weird and unusual things in this fallen world when we live as exiles – knowing that if we are Christ followers, then we are truly strangers and aliens in this world.
Pastor Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, uses a nice phrase to describe the choices we have to make when we encounter the things of this world – we can either reject them, receive them or redeem them. The first two categories are more clear-cut than the third. Imagine these conversations:
Random Person #1: Hey, Pastor James, should I use illegal drugs?
See, that’s pretty easy to discern what kinds of things we should outright reject! What about this one?
Random Person #2: Hey, Pastor James, should I read the Bible?
Not too hard to see some of the things we can simply receive either – the tougher ones are in the gray areas. What sorts of things present us the challenge of asking, “Can this be redeemed for God’s glory?”
I think a great example is the internet. I am not excited about the net as a time waster or source for pornography and illustrations of bad language and behavior. However, as a resource tool I am a big fan. And the fact that God’s word can be made available online to anyone with connectivity is a big plus. I don’t want to throw away the internet (well, not always!) – but I do need to think about how it can be “redeemed” so that it can point towards a relationship with God; not draw people further from faith.
For me, living as an exile has a lot to do with the things I receive, reject or redeem, so I need to be prayerful as I make decisions and be mindful of the fact that lots of people will watch to see which decisions I make (my kids, my accountability partners, non-believers, etc.).
Remember, as Christ followers, that we are truly exiles in a lost world, waiting to go home, to be with Jesus. But, as long as God leaves us here – we have decisions to make that will help people understand who God is and what He will accomplish. Be prayerful about what we reject, receive and redeem. Any maybe stay away from restaurant salad bars – you can’t be too careful, you know!