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I have been living in Mexico for 17 years, working at a home for needy children. I am not a Mexican citizen. I am foreigner, or an alien in this country. I was born in the United States; Denver, Colorado to be exact. I am not really a citizen of the United States either, if one happens to be thinking biblically about the topic of citizenship. There are quite a few scripture verses that express the idea that all Christians are strangers, pilgrims and aliens to this planet. This world is not our home.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and aliens, to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…They were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 17:16

Through these verses God lets us know that we, as Christians, adopted children of God, are strangers, aliens, exiles, foreigners and pilgrims as we exist in this present world. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are longing for a better country, a heavenly one.

I used to read Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, as inspiring, but also somewhat confusing. Twice, the author of Hebrews say that these great people of faith, did not receive what they were promised. What was I to make of that? God made a promise to people, and then they never received what was promised! What kind of God is that? But, after awhile, I came to the conclusion, that as they grew in their relationship with God, they realized that no earthly promise, no matter how grand, could ever compare to the heavenly reality of being in the immediate presence of God and living in eternal bliss with the Creator and Savior. The earthly promises faded in importance as the heavenly reality became more apparent.

So, if we are living on this earth as exiles, how should we live. Perhaps like the exiled Jews in Babylon. Jeremiah tells them, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:4-7

I think this is a good word for us as we live as strangers and exiles in this world, awaiting and longing for the time when we will finally be home.

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If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. C.S. Lewis

When you think of the Gospels, what do you think of? What first comes to mind. Many people think of the good news of Jesus, the message of the kingdom or parables like the good Samaritan or the prodigal son. Some remember miracles like turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding the five thousand. Most of us tune in to the feel good parts of the Gospels. Our first thought is not usually sin. Maybe that is a mistake.

I have been delving into the Gospel of Luke lately, and I can’t help but notice that “sin”, at least in the first five chapters, keeps popping up its ugly head. Quite a few times it seems to me:

“And you, my child (John), will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins…” (1:76-77)

John went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (3:3)

When Simon Peter saw this (great catch of fish), he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (5:8)

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (5:20)

“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (5:23-24)

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (5:30-32)

I think what Luke and Jesus are trying to get across is that sin is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with in a serious way. John the Baptist was all about preaching that people needed to repent from their sins. They needed to drastically change the way they thought about sin so that their behavior would be altered. John told the crowd to be generous, not selfish. He told tax collectors not to collect more than required of them. He told soldiers to not extort money.

And then Jesus comes along, and his message and miracles showed Peter what a sinful man he was. But Jesus does not reject the sinners, he welcomes them and forgives them and invites them to follow him into a better, happier, more fulfilling life.

The paralyzed man that was let down through the roof thought his biggest problem was that he couldn’t walk. Jesus lets him know that his real problem in life was his sins, and Jesus readily forgives him, along with healing him, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders.

These same religious leaders looked down their noses at Jesus because he was partying with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus gave them, and us, his reason for being in the world with his response, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

We can all rejoice that Jesus was not a Pharisee, but the Son of Man who does not reject sinners, but has compassion on them and seeks to move them to a place of realization about how destructive sin is, to be forgiven of their sin and live a joyous, productive, fulfilling life glorifying God and enjoying him forever. Now that is Good News!

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