Prisoner in a foreign land

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I’m a prisoner in a foreign land! Well not quite. I’m here of my own volition and Australia has been good to me giving me not least, my wife.

But I did not expect to end up living here upon finishing my studies, and I wonder when God and my wife will see fit for me to make that move back. I quite easily find myself scanning news articles for the words “New Zealand” that stand out amazingly in a sea of ink to a wistful expatriate thinking of “home”.

Being away from that home and absorbed in the bigger culture of a larger country, I am surprised to recognise that I am not alone when I see the luminous names of those who I presumed naturally belonged where they now live. Michael J Fox, Keanu Reeves and William Shattner are Canadians living in the United States—just some of the names of those who live away from “home”.

Earth is not my home. Not this old earth, anyway. The sounds of the hymn “This World is Not my Home” come into my mind as I say this. Whether Russia takes over Ukraine or I get displaced by rising sea levels from where I currently live—this world is not my home. And although I am to make the most of it for the short time I am here and invite others into God’s kingdom, I believe I am to always take this perspective.

Although I would prefer not to imagine growing up learning the language of an invader nation with the cruelty of their practices at the time, there are far worse things that we can experience than living under an occupying force. Biblically we see this, and I don’t believe times have changed in God’s eyes.  God and patriotism were invoked in the last world war, and yes, I did say I appreciated the benefits to my family, culture and freedom, because “my God” enabled my forefathers to win the battle. However, if the story of Israel and the “Little Maid” under Syrian control tells us anything—and even God’s allowing of a Babylonian exile—God is far more concerned with a person’s spiritual state than their physical, and yes, even emotional comfort to a degree.

Not the most comforting words you might say as we watch the developments of possibly the largest threat to world peace in at least 60 years. But a comfort they should bring. The same God who enabled the widow of Zarephath to manage; sustained Elijah in the desert; and a little girl just doing what it was she was given to do and honouring Him in the process; would sustain you, God-forbid, should that time come.

Arthur Hudson is a pastor in the Greater Sydney Conference.

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