Part 1: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock.
Part 2: Examine the very real effects of expatriate living and culture shock on the Christian, this time from a Christian worldview.
Part 3: What to do about those stresses
In the Introduction to this Culture Shock series, I’d related several expatriate experiences I’d had while visiting abroad for longer than usual vacation periods. There are very real stresses which emerge physiologically, mentally, and emotionally when chooses to dwell in a nation in which one was not born. This fact also applies even when a person has moved from one nation to the next and their native language is spoken in both places, such as moving from the US to the UK, or Canada to Australia. Culture shock is a real event.
I’d said the earth is not our home. In that sense we believers are expatriates. Our citizenship is in heaven. The jarring difference between our home by citizenship and our home by residency is growing wider every day.
In part 1 I’d shared a list of stressors secular expatriates feel when living abroad. In the second part, I translated those secular stressors into stresses Christians feel as expatriates from heaven living in a hostile world. Things are getting more disorienting every day. The “glory days” of Christianity, are all gone, if they ever existed at all. We ARE strangers in a strange land and the times show us that more as every month passes. Yet many Christians are still shocked at the hostility and unfriendliness in their work or in their social circle or even within their families for their faith. Christians become upset over the political process currently happening in America. They are surprised when friends on Facebook suddenly turn angry, bitter, and mean. They are astounded when seemingly solid marriages break up. They are complaining on social media and at the proverbial water cooler about the state of the church (which is admittedly declining, and declining fast).
Expatriation means a break with home – where you come from and your mother tongue – it requires a mental readjustment to meet the demands of your new life which is often governed by specific rules to which you need to adapt and familiarise yourself. Source
The mental – and emotional – expatriation that occurs when transferring one’s citizenship from the nation of Earth to the City of Heaven does require a major readjustment. The new Christian life is demanding, and this does not change if one is an old Christian, either. The Lord said to pick up one’s cross every day, (Luke 9:23) and from newbies to veterans, pew-sitters to leaders, the adjustment is daily and ceaseless because sanctification is ceaseless. (Until the moment of glorification, that is!) Releasing attachment from the world is ongoing. Scanning one’s life for idols is constant.It takes energy adn sometimes heartache not to assimilate in the world even while we are in it. (John 17:14-15). Just imagine Jesus, who was not of this world but lived in it for 33 years, perfectly and without sin. The Original expatriate. (John 8:23).
In this part: what to do about our surprise, shock, and upset as we grow apart from the culture that wants to hold tight to us.
First, let’s give ourselves a bit of a break. The earth is the only home we’ve known. Though we know by faith and from the Bible that our home is in heaven, we have not seen it. So when we are caught off guard during a controversy, a tragedy, or a disappointment, though the head-knowledge is strongly present, it sometimes takes a while for the heart to catch up and sort it out. It hurts to lose your church. It pains us to be marginalized from a previous social circle. It is a grief when family distances themselves.
The remedy for culture shock as always is Jesus. He is the remedy for everything.
First, you know the old adage, “Some Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” This is a lie straight from satan’s doubly forked tongue. The ONLY way we can be of any good is from, to, through, and because of Jesus, and He is in heaven. Further, the Bible says,
Colossians 3:2 says, Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.
Contrast the above command with the enemies of Christ who focus on earthly things. It does not end well.
Philippians 3:19 says, Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
Matthew 16:23 says, Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.“
This is what it means to be in the world but not of it. Don’t become too attached to human concerns. Of course we can be concerned when our favorite candidates’s presidential campaign does not go well, but we should not engage in public hand-wringing. Of course we can be attuned to the economy’s ups and downs, but the schemes and philosophies of man should not rule us. Of course we are involved with the other elements that make up a society, such as technology, business, culture, trade, communications – but those will not last. We might care about the wind farm going over the hill or the bypass being planned for the neighborhood or the bandwidth of our local communications utility – but those things will pass away. Getting TOO involved in the cultural details will shift our focus from the heavenly home above and Jesus as the ruler, creator, sustainer, savior, priest, judge, etc. Shepherd the things that are impacting our lives here on earth but let them go if they are causing a stumbling in our witness.
Have you ever met someone who was so heavenly minded they were so earthly good? No, you haven’t, and I haven’t either. I have met heavenly people who exhibit the fruits of the spirit and they are plenty good on earth, as a witness to the grace of Jesus Christ. They are patient, joyful, kind, self-controlled, kind, good, and gentle. Their Facebook page is not littered with rants against this candidate or that one. Their conversation is not peppered with complaints about the lousy internet service. Their faces are not all sour because their stock took a slight dip.
From the essay The Futility of Political Change:
Part of the fallout from the emphasis on political activism in the church is the denigration of God’s sovereignty. If we truly believe the Lord is the Author of history and that He is orchestrating all things according to His will, do we really need to throw so much of our time, energy, and resources into supporting candidates and ballot measures? Or is it that He has temporarily lost control, and we need to gain it back for Him?
As John MacArthur explains, that’s simply not the work we’ve been set aside for:
We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle against worldly ideologies and dogmas that are arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV).
God simply is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or the appearance of “rightness” over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.
So as heavenly expatriates, keep focused on the home to which we will all return.
Secondly, all the expatriate sites say how important it is to make friends in the new location. For Christians, this means developing relationships in and among solid Christians who will lift you or help you by a sacred word, pray for you, and keep you accountable. Start with friendships at church. Make overtures, or host a couple or a new friend or two. Be friendly and kind.
I know this isn’t some of “y’all’s” cup of tea. It isn’t really mine. It isn’t a negotiable though. (Hebrews 10:25). Anyway, I like the old story about the man who quit coming to church. After a while his pastor came to visit the man in his home. A roaring fire was burning in the fireplace. The two sat in companionable silence for a while. The Pastor asked the man why he stopped coming to church and being involved with the people there. The man had a list of complaints that were mostly petty. In response the pastor simply poked the fire iron into the fire, and drew out one ember. Soon, the ember faded and then went out. The pastor simply got up and left, and the next week the man was back in church.
Third, in secular expatriate advice, they advise being ‘open to new experiences’. In Christian expatriate life, we translate their advice to at to “serve”. Doing so gets your mind off yourself. We stretch ourselves when we are called to serve in an area of ministry. (Romans 7:6)
In a secular list of advice for the expatriate, it is warned, “Don’t keep all the pressure of your new life to yourself.” We translate that to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Who should we list our complaints to? Jesus. I find this index card very helpful. It was posted on Facebook by a friend today. As the world becomes more brutal, people are more raw. This includes Christians.
Prayer helps us keep our perspective. Lay it all at His feet, from the trivial to the mundane to the tragic woe. He is listening, because He is our priest, interceding for us. (Romans 8:34).
I think I’ve dragged out the metaphor long enough. In order to minimize the very real effects of Christian culture shock in these brutal days:
–Set your mind on the things above
–Develop Godly relationships
If you do those things you will not be so culture shocked. Personally, I’m looking forward to the shock of living my little life on earth and then the next second being called by Jesus in the rapture and established upon the New Jerusalem which is in heaven! I will have a lovely time being shocked senseless amid the presence of the Savior, the Tree of Life, the saints, the angels, and the glory of God. Now THAT’S culture shock!