Foreigner No More!

foreigners

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,

Ephesians 2:19

As an American living in Asia I know what it is to live as a “foreigner”.  My skin color, body language, and way I interact with others is instantly recognized as having been birthed “somewhere else”.  However after so many years living in Hong Kong, it is a wonderfully refreshing feeling at times when those who are native to the culture extend their hand and welcome you in.

It is this feeling that Paul the Apostle is attempting to convey to his readers in his letter to the Ephesians.

remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:12-13

The idea of “foreigner” was very much a part of the culture of Israel.  A couple posts back I suggested its possible the Apostle Peter lost some of the impact of his ministry because he could never quite shed his aversion to “foreigners”.  Although he understood, and boldly proclaimed, that in Christ there was neither Jew nor Gentile (foreigner) and that ALL were now part of the family of God, he struggled throughout the years with living that out  fully.

“Excluded from citizenship” was the term Paul used.  You are not part of “us”… you are “other”…. miscellaneous.  This culture was so pervasive that Peter, knowing that God had ended it still needed a heavenly vision to be persuaded to go and meet with Cornelius, a “foreigner” who came to him as a friend.  (Acts 10).  Even then Peter felt the need to remind Cornelius that this was not something he would normally do.

But this is NOT what Peter’s Lord had taught.  Jesus was an includer…not an excluder.  Nearly everyone who followed Jesus became upset with him at some point simply because of who he chose to include.

* The Jews were upset he hung out with Samaritans

* The religious were upset he hung out with “sinners”

* The rich didn’t like that he identified with the poor

* The poor murmured and complained when he dined with the rich

But where you find Jesus you will find reconciliation.  Strangers become friends and enemies become brothers.

On one side of the Cross of Christ the gentiles are treated as a “foreigner” and on the other side they were welcomed as “citizen”.

I recently had an experience in China that highlights new identity in Christ.

I live in Hong Kong but often have to go over the border into China for business.  For those unfamiliar with the dynamics here, Hong Kong came under the sovereignty of China 15 years ago.  Previously it was a territory of Great Britain and as part of the deal that was negotiated between China and Britain, Hong Kong maintains an autonomy separate from Mainland China.  It has it’s own immigration, currency, passports, laws etc.  It essentially operates as a quasi independent country.

foreigners 2

A couple weeks ago I was coming back from a meeting in China with about a dozen work colleagues.  About 6 of us were Chinese and 6 of us were other nationalities.  As our bus approached the border we got out to pass through immigration.  On the China side there are distinct immigration lines with one side being “Chinese Nationals” and the other being “Foreigners”.   My Chinese colleagues went off to their side and the Americans, Canadians, Australians, and British among us went to our “foreigner” side.

We eventually made it all through and assembled together again at the bus that was waiting for us.  We boarded and proceeded then across the bridge past the barbed wire barrier to the Hong Kong side of the border.  Again we all dismounted but at Hong Kong Immigration the two sides are separated into a “Hong Kong Residents” side and the much less pejorative “Visitors” line.  (“Visitor” just sounds SO much nicer than “foreigner”)

Now, rather than being separated from our Chinese colleagues, we walked together as a common group through the “Hong Kong Residents” line.  On one side of the border we are divided into Chinese and “foreigner” on the other we are ALL “Hong Kongers”.  It is a wonderful feeling to feel part of a community.

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Visitors Channel entering Hong Kong

That is one of the most beautiful results of Christ’s sacrifice.  On one side of the border (The Old Covenant) we are separated out as foreigners or”them“.  On the other side of the border (The New Covenant) we are welcomed as fellow citizens and family or”us“!

God welcomes all to come and become part of his family!  In Him the idea of foreigner is banished!

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