Social distancing. Travel restrictions. Masks – real ones! Hyper-vigilant cleansing. Suspicion of anyone who coughs or gets too close. The land of zoom zombies.
Our new norm could be described as a type of exile.
In Peter’s first letter to the church, he twice calls the Christ-followers exiles.
‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion… .’ (1:1).
‘Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles… .’ (2:11).
According to the dictionary, Exile is:
- The condition or period of being forced to live away from one’s native country or home, especially as a punishment.
- The condition or period of self-imposed absence from one’s country or home.
Exile is a word popularised by the Hebrew prophets to describe the people of God during the time of their dispersion. Their lives had experienced a major shift in daily reality.
It is a term implying separation from what is familiar. It implies discomfort and disorientation. And it is part of our identity as Christ-followers.
So, as Christ-followers, we are always in exile. It is a calling.
However, the Covid-19-induced exile is more of a condition. It adds a layer of disorientation to what we know as the norm.
I choose to refer to these two types of exile with unique designations.
- Christ-follower – I am on exile. Calling.
- Covid-19 participant – I am in exile. Condition.
As one on exile, I cannot respond to the condition of being in exile as the world might. I’m called to a missional response of fruitfulness, hope, and service, even in the midst of the condition. It means constant effort to find reorientation in a disoriented world
I am on exile.
How can I stay in calling mode in the midst of the condition? I need to allow God to release some of the qualities of the early Christ-following exiles that Peter highlighted in his letter:
- “…born again to a living hope” (1:3)
- “…rejoicing in trials” (1:6)
- “…putting away all malice and slander” (2:1)
- “…keeping conduct honourable before the world” (2:12)
- “…rejoicing in suffering” (4:13)
Given the global world that we live in – where exile as a condition may be the new norm – we can never fully go back to the old way. This may be a gift if it awakens us, as the church, to the calling aspect of exile.
Excerpts taken from a series of blogs on the theme of exile found at https://globallead.org/blog/exile-calling-or-condition
Dr Chuck Davis is a former pastor, missionary, seminary professor, leadership coach for church and mission, speaker, and author. He lives in Connecticut USA with his wife Ingrid.