Embracing Homelessness

Throughout its story, the Bible gives voice to one of humanities’ deepest longings: to feel at home- to return to a time we feel as though we remember, yet can’t quite recall, when all things were at peace. In the middle  of a season of isolation, depression, pain, and loss, I felt that students may well resonate with this desire to see all things made right and feel at home again, and I thought that journeying through the Bible’s story of home and exile in youth group could be a life-changing experience for our high-schoolers.

Our students aren’t alone in feeling this pain. I feel it, and I imagine you do as well. The Bible ascribes this feeling to the reality that we once had a garden home with God, and as Christians we are offered an ultimate solution in the form of a future day when Jesus will return, restore creation, and right all wrongs, making this world a true home again. It’s a beautiful picture, but like many of the beautiful pictures of the Bible, it is one that humans have become adept at corrupting.

You see, for as long as humans have been far from home in exile from the garden, they have been trying to make false homes. The first of these takes the form of the city of Babylon and its tower. Humans come together, rejecting their calling to fill the earth, and instead try to make a name for themselves among the gods. They try to re-establish the order and grandeur they had in their original home apart from God.

Are we still guilty of making these false homes today? I would argue so. In American Christianity, I think two of the most common false homes we make for ourselves go by the name “Republican and Democrat” I think that our longing for home becomes crystal clear in election years like these. As Christians, we are tempted to find our homes in a political party. We often believe that the victory of one will solve all our problems and rebuild the home we lost. We become suspicious or even hateful of those on the other side. We make apocalyptic claims about elections, believing the world will crumble if they do not go our way, and we are consumed with fear and anxiety, believing that the future rides on our political party homes.

I don’t want to be too harsh on anyone. This is a natural tendency that didn’t start with America. Even Jesus dealt with such an offer, though the way he dealt with it is insightful. In Mark 12:13-17, his enemies confront him with a choice: to pay taxes to Rome or not (i.e. to choose the Herodian party or the Jewish-sympathizer party). He responds by pointing to one of the Roman coins, and says (in paraphrase) “see, it has Caesar’s image, so give it to him, but you are in God’s image, so to whom should you give your whole self?” It was not a call, as some mistake it, to compartmentalize our life and separate our politics from our morals, instead, it is a consideration that giving ourselves completely to (making our home in) any human party betrays our commitment to our true home in Yahweh’s Kingdom. Jesus chose the way of the exile not yet at home. He knew that to give into either party completely would corrupt his witness and destroy his testimony.

The coming weeks are going to be tense: Indeed, they already have been, but I would appeal to you all as my brothers and sisters (and exiles) in Christ to examine yourselves closely. Have you made a false home in a political party and identity? Have you given what only belongs to God to the Republicans or Democrats? Are you suspicious, disparaging, or hateful of those who disagree with you? Are you relying on a president to help you feel “at home”- at peace, secure, and safe? If so, perhaps you’ve become a bit too “at home” in this age. Don’t miss the beautiful reality that God is redeeming this world and will make it a home once more, and remember that as you join him in his mission to do so, you will often find yourselves at odds with any home that this world tries to offer you.  

Dan Vandzura