The concept of living as exiles if foreign to most of us. Chances are, not one reading this has ever been captured and held against their will in a foreign land. Living as an exile is different than living as a pilgrim. We know who the Pilgrims were – the Separatists from the Church of England who came to the New World to pursue religious freedom from the king. It was a decision they made by choice. Our country has a rich history of pilgrims.
We also have a not so pretty history of exiles. Many of our country were brought here, not as pilgrims but as exiles. The slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries brought countless African people, most against their will, to this country. They were not pilgrims pursuing a better existence, they were exiles in a foreign land. In the old spirituals, one can hear an echo of Psalm 137, the cry of God’s people in a foreign land:
“Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on; let me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord; lead me home.” – Thomas Dorsey
Not feeling like an exile in this life and therefore not living like an exile is one of our problems. We have made this earth our home. We have played like we will be here forever. We have surrounded ourselves with all the comforts and pleasures of citizens who build a worldy empire. Yet, God’s people are exiles. We were not created for a broken world filled with sin, strife, war and all kinds of evil.
In his grace, God often brings trial and suffering into the lives of his children to help release us from the grip by which the comforts and pleasures of the world hold us. These difficulties help remind us that we are indeed exiles, waiting to return to the City of God.