Recently, I have become overwhelmed with the anguish of living as a foreigner or an alien in a country that proclaims to be an “elect” Nation for a chosen people. I must confess that there was a period of time in my life that I assumed that God’s preferred language was English and that his preferred Nation was America or the United States. Strangely enough, there are still many of my fellow Americans who share this view and have never given much thought to the consequences of such a narrow view of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.
Please do not misinterpret my feelings of anguish for an attack on the xenophobic tendencies of the nation I am currently residing in. I am the last person to throw a stone when I am only proficient in one language and only recently come to realize that God does not need an interpreter to inhabit the praises of those who worship Him. I even struggle to write this blog because my language is woefully inadequate to capture the thoughts and experiences of that which is greater than all things created. How do you describe something that has no gender and has no beginning or no end? The Hebrew writers refused to speak the name of whom we affectionately call God. Nevertheless, I am compelled to raise the question with my inadequate language, “Does God favor one nation over the other?”
Is it wise to ascribe the wealth of a nation to its “Godly” characteristics? Conversely, is it wise or morally right to suggest that poorer nations are not “Godly”? As I live among the poor here in South Africa, I struggle with the proclamation that America has more because we are blessed and that somehow we actually deserve it. I would like to convince myself that Americans work harder and therefore we deserve a higher standard of living. Yet, it is painfully just not true. I am impressed with the strong work ethic and wise stewardship of the meager wages received by hard working people here in South Africa. It could be argued that the people of this country are more faithful and appreciative of the little that God has provided than the people of wealthier countries who take so much for granted.
If we call God a Father and we are His children, then what is our obligation to one another? I remind my children often that it is important to share with their siblings and especially with children who are visiting with us. I also remind them that everything they call their own actually belongs to me. There really is no such thing as my room! There is only one deed or lease and I have not legally subdivided our possessions, so no one can call something their own. Perhaps it too simplistic to link Faith and Capital in this way, but in the end nothing is our own. When we die, we cannot take any possessions with us. I suggest that the burden we face as Christians is how to share with our neighbor, in spite of the country they call home.
Many “Godly” nations have gone through great expense to strengthen their borders and do not see any conflict with their statements of faith, e.g. in God we trust. We permit nearly every sin imaginable in the name of liberty and yet deny access to the very same liberty we are protecting. Who or what are we really keeping out? How do we choose to label someone a foreigner or alien? This a major challenge for those of us who profess a faith Jesus the Christ. The Apostle Paul reminded the Church at Ephesus that they “are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Can we reconcile this assertion within the body of Christ and more importantly what is our responsibility to the nations we reside in?
The Government of South Africa has labeled me as a Non-Resident, yet I reside within the country. There are limitations on what I can and cannot do. I suspect that there is good reason for these restrictions; however, the source of my anxiety is not government policies, but how the body of Christ responds to foreigners. I must confess that what I am experiencing here is even worse in the United States, but I never had to experience it there. Like other good church people I sat quietly as the Hispanic community cried out for justice. It didn’t seem like my issue. I am guilty for doing nothing to address the pain of being labeled an illegal alien. I even quietly agreed with statements such as go back to your country. Until now, I never imagined how sinful it is to ignore those who have been identified as foreigners and aliens. Father, please forgive me!
As governments debate over which countries deserve foreign aid, the members of God’s household must distribute their capital in the kingdom in which their faith resides. There should always be something left to share. Perhaps Jesus told us that we would always have the poor among us to teach us the kingdom principle of stewardship. How much more would the gospel spread if the children of the King shared what was meant to be an inheritance for all us – not just the children chosen to manage part of His estate?