The Settler’s Struggle with the Sojourner
The settler doesn’t like the company of the sojourner. They threaten his security. Their past lives frighten him and make him uncomfortable. Their dysfunctional pasts are messy and unfamiliar. Some of them sport tattoos and piercings and hair color and clothing that frighten and confuse the settler. He has paid his dues. He wants a nice, secure, peaceful homestead with predictable, if boring, neighbors, to live out his days.
“Why do you spend all your time with the likes of them?” he says (in his heart) to the sojourner.
“I was once one of them, (and so where you if you see yourself rightly)” the sojourner replies, “but God has made us a happy band of travelers and promised us the riches of His presence. Come, join with us and live for the Master’s glory rather than your comforts. You won’t believe the freedom you find from the things you leave behind.5 And your experience of His comfort will be far more secure than all that you try to build without Him.”
The sojourner knows that one day, we will all gather round His table one family, one great people of God united not by color or culture, nor by geography or party, not by musical preference or liturgical form, but by this one simple fact—we have been called into a sojourning family—the Bible says we are a new race, a new family of God (1 Peter 2:9). We were called into a family and a relationship we didn’t deserve by a God we didn’t love, to be a witness to a world we are sojourning through rather than settling in.
We can never forget Hebrews 11:13: (Speaking of all the Old Testament saints of God)
“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
That is our destiny—strangers and sojourners now, but promise receivers with all the saints who have gone before and all who will come after.
Why is this so important? Because: Only sojourners will risk everything all the time. Settlers will risk some things some times, and that, always and only after much deliberation and calculation. And the risk that he takes will always be weighed against the amount of security, comfort and convenience that he will have to give up.
But sojourners will risk everything wherever and whenever it is asked of them by the Master. Their treasure is not in their earthly settlement but in heaven. The struggle therefore, is for believers in Christ to fight the temptation to slip out of a sojourner mentality and into a settler mentality. It is a struggle that most of us lose every day. But it is a war that we must wage if we are to remain faithful to the Lord of Glory.
Congregations and individual Christians, living as settlers, will never inconvenience themselves in credible, sacrificial ways for those who are unlike them (ethnic peoples and cultures) because it is too big a challenge to their security, comfort, and convenience. Denominations and churches with a settler mentality will never sacrifice their places of honor in the community to speak out prophetically because their honor might be besmirched and jeopardized if they ruffle the wrong feathers. A settler is the wrong kind of “conservative.” They work to conserve their own piece of the American dream and they forget the weightier issues related to people who will last forever.
This is a “Great Wall of China” barrier to authentic gospel ministry in post-modern America, which leads me to the second concept that must underlie an authentic Christian’s self identity:
Thesis 2: We are a “Cross-bought and Cross-shaped People.”
Again, let me start by citing a number of Scriptures. First, on the “cross-bought” nature of our existence, Paul speaking to the Ephesian elders says this in Acts 20:28:
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
“Which he purchased with His own blood,” What precious words these are to all true believers in Christ. We are a people bought by the bloody sacrifice of our Savior. We can never let this “cross-boughtness” become dull in our spirits. This certainly is one of the reasons for the Lord’s Supper. In it, we are reminded by the words “on the night before He suffered,” that the cost of our salvation reached as high as the throne of God and ended on a bloody hillside in Jerusalem where the price of our redemption was paid on a Roman instrument of torture and shame called a cross.
Paul is not alone in pointing out the “cross-boughtness” of our lives in Christ. The Apostle John, recording his vision of the end of the age writes:
‘And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”’
And on the cross-shapedness of our lives, Jesus says: Matthew 16:24 (also Mark 8:34)
‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”’
Luke 9:23 (making explicit that this is a DAILY act)
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Matthew 10:38 (also Luke 14:27)
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
The Apostle Paul builds upon Christ’s words in Romans 6:5-13.
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
This “cross-bought” and “cross-shapedness” of our lives is to be the glorious character of our testimony. The cross is to be the central core, the pivot of our understanding of who we are, who we are becoming and the process whereby we become who we are in Christ.
Again, why is this so critical? Because: Only an identification with the cross-bought and cross-shapedness of our identity as Christians will enable us to follow Jesus and become fishers of men. Jesus made a promise to all believers. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He is always faithful to His promises. So if we are not fishing in the type of pools and for the type of fish that Jesus fished for, how is it possible that we are following Him? He will make us fishers of men, if we follow Him.
If we are not fishing for men, perhaps it means, (it must mean) that we are not following Him no matter how many Bibles we own or religious services we attend. The type of people Jesus modeled fishing for scandalized the religious authorities of the first century.
‘When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”’
5. Thank you Michael Card for your music and perspective.