Expatriate: Living outside your native country [noun, adjective, and verb]  Origin 18th Century, as a verb from the Medieval Latin: expatriat–gone out from one’s country.

As a person born in the lower third of the Great Plains of the United States, one who has lived her entire life in the United States and only visited The Bahamas, Mexico, and Canada, you would think I have very little knowledge of what it means to be an expatriate, to live as a non-native even in English speaking, industrialized, democratic nations requires adaptation that stretches even the most flexible individuals.

Consider these verses from 1 Peter 2 [NET and MSG versions]

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. (1 Peter 2:11-12 MSG)

Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NET)

Furthermore as a Christian, living smack dab in the United States of America, expired passport in a drawer, the passage of scripture from the I Peter Study with I find I am reminded again that I am an expatriate.  On this earth I hold citizenship by birth in the United States, but in the universal sense, I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom.  Can I represent Christ, while living among the natives here? Can I do it?

I have known people, I know people who live in countries other than their own.  My Father and Mother-in-law lived in Trinidad and then Egypt for several years in the 1970’s.  We have missionary friends who have lived in various parts of the world and one who lives in Kenya today. I have listened intently to the stories and tried to picture life as a foreigner in a culture other than my own [not that the United States is ONE culture].  Nevertheless, I wonder could I do it?

Sarah Turnbull in ALMOST FRENCH:  LOVE AND A NEW LIFE IN PARIS says this:

“Such is the nature of an expatriate life. Stripped of romance, perhaps that’s what being an expat is all about: a sense of not wholly belonging. […] The insider-outsider dichotomy gives life a degree of tension. Not of a needling, negative variety but rather a keep-on-your-toes sort of tension that can plunge or peak with sudden rushes of love or anger. Learning to recognize and interpret cultural behavior is a vital step forward for expats anywhere, but it doesn’t mean that you grow to appreciate all the differences.” 

As Christians living in this world, we represent The Kingdom of God, so not only are we foreign, we are ambassadors.   We don’t live in an embassy, but we seek the fellowship of other Christians to hold us true to our mission. We will never fit in and that does cause tension in any relationship we have with non-Christians.  Our intention is to exemplify Christ, but the reality is that our efforts will have peaks and valleys.

 As Sarah Turnbull says, “it doesn’t mean that you grow to appreciate all the differences.” nor do we break completely free of longing to belong.  

I suppose that means, Folks, that if I get too comfortable with the way the culture is, with the shifts in morality, and I just go along to get along, then I had better be hitting the Word and hanging out with Jesus and other believers more.  I gotta love the NATIVES, but I do not have to MIMIC their lifestyle or accept their worldview.

IN FACT, I should be living the kind of life that makes them want to obtain citizenship in the Kingdom of God!

― Sarah Turnbull, Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris