CONTRIBUTED BY ANDREW HART
The other day I was listening to some people discussing their time here as expats, and how they longed for home. They were discussing the annoying things the locals do, and how they can’t understand our football, let alone be bothered to learn this silly thing called cricket. The food tastes bland, and the beer is nothing like back home.
An expat, or expatriate, is a person who is temporarily living in another country, for work or some other short-term reason. They haven’t migrated, they’re just living here for some time, maybe a year or two. It’s clear they haven’t invested any energy in fitting in with the locals. And they will be different for as long as they are here.
The word expatriate comes from the Greek language, and is made up of two parts
- Ex, meaning “out of”, and
- Patria, meaning “native country” or “fatherland”, coming from the word patrius which is pertaining to father, or pater which literally means father.
So, they consider themselves as being “out of the fatherland”.
It got me thinking, are we expats? Do we long for home? Or do we live as the locals do? Maybe we fit in too much? Maybe we are nice and comfortable here, enjoying all the customs and practices of the locals.
Being an expat in the biblical sense is realising you don’t fully fit in here, and that you are looking forward to going to the fatherland.
It reminds me of Joseph, who (in Genesis 50:25) made the Israelites promise to take his bones back to the promised land, because he didn’t want to buried in Egypt.
It reminds me of Moses, who, standing on the mountain, could look with longing and sadness at the promised land that the rest of the Israelites would cross over to possess.
It reminds me of Daniel, who, when they were in exile in Babylon, opened his window towards Jerusalem to pray, longing for blessings that would come from Zion.
It also reminds me of when Jesus says you don’t belong in this world (eg in John 15:19).
And when Paul says (in Romans 12:2) not to be conformed to the world, but be transformed: and to count your citizenship as being in heaven (in Phillipians 3:20).
The fatherland will be a place so much better than we can imagine, and infinitely better than this temporal life on earth. Don’t love this world, and the things of this world. The things that unbelievers live for are temporary, and it can all be gone faster than a lightning strike. Live like an expat. Live for Christ. Stop trying to fit in. Don’t act how people of this world act, but instead be an imitator of Christ and spread the gospel so others can one day go to their heavenly home.