settling, revisited

Yesterday I looked back at some journal entries from the months soon after we moved here. And one of the entries caught my eye, specifically the thoughts about settling down and the importance of being "strangers and exiles." Somehow it resonated with some of my current feelings.

I noticed that my concern then about settling down mostly had to do with material wealth or security. Being owned by what we own. Which is an important concern, because the accumulation of wealth and stuff does becomes a powerful temptation and distraction from following Jesus. But since then I've become more aware of the security we seek in groups of people, the powerful temptation to depend on "the power of the people" (described in the essay I wrote last spring, "Are we the people?"). And this may be the more dangerous part of settling down, the social aspect.

The imagery of "strangers and exiles" even seems to speak more directly to the social aspect, as those terms refer primarily to our relationship with the people around us. As I wrote before, this imagery is found throughout the Old and New Testaments. It's perhaps easier to interpret this as meaning we are to be strangers in the world, i.e. on earth (with our home in heaven). But Jesus spoke of his followers as distinct from "the world" meaning the people around them, society.

It's also easy to interpret "the world" as meaning those outside "the church." But Jesus (and his disciples) found the heaviest resistance within their own religious communities. Jesus even (often?) felt alienated within his own gathered disciples, most notably when he told Peter to "get behind me Satan!" So I think it's important to keep the "strangers and exiles" imagery in mind even in our relationships with those we tend to think of as our own community.

That's not to say, of course, that we can't have deep connections and real intimacy. Wherever the spirit of God is, real love and unity and peace can be found between people. But the spirit "blows where it wills." And, to avoid bitter disappointments, we should be careful that we are not expecting of human societies (including families, circles of friends, communities) something they cannot provide: they cannot truly be our people, our home.