A Better Country

I have a bent toward independence, but I'm not proud of it. It has limited me in many ways and kept me at an arm's length from most people. When I was young, I had a fierce desire to be right. I used words as weapons in ways that I’m sure offended and pierced others. I say I did this, but the truth is I’ve done it when I was older. Someone talks out of two sides of their mouth and I’m on it. 

I’ve felt a deep regret and conviction about the need to change, measure my words and grow in relationships. I am not good alone. I need others to help me see my blind spots.  I could use the Holy Spirit as my excuse for limiting the influence of others in my life, telling myself I only need his help and direction, but that would not be biblical. “It is not good for man to be alone.”

As I watch, listen to, and read the media of the day (both traditional and social), it’s made me feel alone on the earth. Of course, I am not alone but I do feel loneliness. I feel other than, peculiar, alien. I fight a human need (at least, that’s where I think it originates) to find someone in which I can align myself and I’ve found myself thinking about a question I’ve pondered over the years.

In times of sadness or uncertainty, I've wondered why God doesn’t just whisk us away to heaven when He saves us. Why does He promise us a better country and leave us to walk the sin-stained dirt of this earth? 

I am sure there may be many theological answers to my question, but something I’m seeing in the Scriptures is telling me the question may not be valid.  

Colossians 1:13 says I was rescued “from the domain of darkness, and transferred… to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” God did this for me in mercy and grace as I believed in Him and placed my faith in his provision for me through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Before the election, I was teaching a passage out Ephesians when I asked those listening to consider what a mistake it was for the church to "hitch it’s wagon" to the government because when the government fails people, the people it fails blame the God the church proclaims---guilt by association.

When preachers took to the Internet telling people how to vote, by implication and overtly, it made me cringe. Why did they want to get tangled up in politics? They have a bigger race to run. Where were their eyes? By being endorsers, they joined the media in the clamor in the world. (Eph. 4:17-32)

I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote prayerfully and live as good citizens. What I am saying is that we need to realize what we are signing up for when we align ourselves with a tribe. Inevitably, on the earth, tribes set themselves up against other tribes---they feel the need to defend their tribal identity with words, actions, or both.

God doesn’t intend for followers of Christ to be passive in the culture, but I do believe that those in Christ will spread the fragrance of Christ in the midst of the culture. How this is lived out is nuanced in the lives of each Christian based on their gifting and the place in the world where they live and have influence. The fragrance of Christ never has the stench of death. If it does, then it isn’t Jesus that is being spread. (2 Cor. 2:15-17)

Even as we live our lives in Christ in the different contexts around the world, the truth is our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God.  

God’s kingdom never gets wonky like the governments in this world. When we see people doing what sinful people do, the people whose citizenship is in the kingdom of God remember the better country. They recognize the promises of God are eternal, some of them to be fulfilled in the future. They live for, and in light of the promises of God. They live with true vision.
“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.” (Paraphrase of Hebrews 11:13-16, Eugene Peterson, The Message)

Why am I hopeful on this day? 

I’m hopeful because I see the “better country.” I see not because I’m special or intelligent or super-spiritual. I see because of the grace of God given to me and because of the Spirit of God alive in me. It’s the only explanation I have. 

I admit I have blind spots. There is no way that I can pull together all the factors that are in play in the political and cultural landscape of the country where I live. That truth makes it that much easier to fix my eyes on Jesus who is the Truth. I live in an unshakable kingdom. (Heb. 12:2; 26-28)

This afternoon, I walked the streets of the neighborhood, prayed for my neighbors, cooked a pot of soup, did the laundry and I looked with the eyes of my soul toward the better country. I was at peace. I won’t be joining a tribe. I will love people right where I am because the kingdom of God is here; it is now. (Luke 17:20-21)


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