Sunday, May 2, 2010

Strangers and Exiles

Hebrews 11 is the great faith chapter in the Bible and most Christians are probably familiar with its central thesis, found in verse six: without faith it is impossible to please God. The chapter also lists many examples of great faith. In fact, I've heard this chapter described as the "Hall of Faith" with inductees like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

I could study Hebrews 11 for months and still not exhaust its lessons, but as I write this, one little detail really stands out. Hebrews 11: 13 says that these faith hall-of-famers all "acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."

I have moments that just reek of the kingdom of God -- interacting with authentic Christ-followers who know and live God's Word, spending time in Creation, seeing the beauty of truth wherever it is found -- these kingdom encounters are a great encouragement to me. But there are other times that are marked by longing, by an unsettled feeling, that I'm made for something else. There is so much to mourn in this world, and down deep I long for something better.

But where did we get this kind of unsettled feeling, this longing for something else? Does an ideal just evolve over time? Was there a time when humans were just content with cave family dynamics, and senseless and brutal killings? Of course not. That's absurd. Why would a creature evolve to long for something it has never known? No, like so many issues, the Bible itself holds the answer: God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and the ideal of unfettered fellowship with Him survived the Fall.

So we really have a choice to make. When we hear about a college student beating his former girlfriend to death, when we hear disheartening statistics about child labor and prostitution, when we witness people we know wound each other emotionally, we have two options. We can cling to hope, or we can give up.

The Hall of Faithers had a death grip on hope. They wouldn't let go, because they knew they were strangers and exiles. Do you?

This week, no matter what hardships we endure, what heartaches we witness, may the Holy Spirit empower us to keep trusting. My name isn't going to be some addendum to Hebrews 11, but I cannot think of a greater compliment than for someone to say, "Kristie Jackson? Yes, she knows she is a stranger and an exile. She is a woman of faith."