In his book, Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, Mark Labberton describes the North American church as living in exile while we blindly think we’re living in the Promised Land.
But like Israel, we’ve lost sight of what the Promised Land was intended for:
The premise of God’s Promised Land to Israel was not that it was a place to pluck God’s benefits. It was rather where God’s people were to thrive in the grace of living out the call to be God’s people. For Israel, blessings were not the goal; they were the encouragement along the path of living God’s way. (emphasis mine) (p.54)
For many, our faith has been just a component of living the American dream. We subject it to the values of our consumerist society, shopping for churches and religious experiences, seeking blessings, and even reading scriptures through a lens that emphasizes meeting our own needs, satisfying our own desires, and maximizing our own ease and comfort. Labberton continues:
Living our call in exile involves adjusting to very different circumstances and reading the signals of our environment and culture very differently. It means choosing to give ourselves to those around us with fewer and different expectations, not as settlers but as guests or visitors. We don’t whine about the world being the world. We are instead called to love it out of the integrity of our lives, without making our love dependent on its changing. (emphasis mine) “Seek the welfare [or shalom] of the city,…for in it you will find your welfare,” is the instruction of Jeremiah 29:7. “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus said. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:46, 44).” (pp.55-56)
So the question for me today is this: Can I “thrive in the grace of living out the call to be God’s people”, rejoicing when God encourages me with His blessings and consistently loving unconditionally instead of whining when the world doesn’t conform to my expectations?