God has been speaking to me about aliens. As in, foreigners, not extra-terrestrial beings. The first time I heard the word sojourn was on my Italian visa as an exchange student many years ago. It said on my passport: INFORMATO INTERESSATO SU NORME DI SOGGIORNO IN ITALIA. I quickly learnt what soggiorno meant, but never thought it was used in the English language too (Bravo!).
n. sojourn – a temporary stay : her sojourn in Rome
v. [intrans.] – stay somewhere temporarily : she had sojourned once in Egypt
I was reading my Bible one morning and came across a letter Jeremiah had written to the Israelites, who were being deported to Babylon. God told Jeremiah to tell the Israelites:
Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)
“And on the sixth day God created [Man]chester”? The Palace Hotel on Oxford Road
Picture credit: Glen Chang
In the passage above, God was telling the Israelites how to behave as foreigners in their new land. As a foreigner in Manchester, England, this is how God says I am to behave. I am to work for the peace and prosperity of the city where God has sent me to study, now to work and to live. Pray to the Lord for Manchester, for Manchester’s welfare will determine my welfare.
As an ex-international student, I can fairly say that the UK is not my country. Except for the vaguely Commonwealth connection, I have no allegiance to it, no patriotic ties, no nationality ties and no ethnicity ties. Therefore, it might seem right to treat this place as a transitory, “take and run” stepping stone to fulfill my own purposes.
But God says I am to love Manchester and its people. To pray for Manchester and Mancunians. To love them because God loves them. This is because “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” (Psalm 24:1) I am to claim Manchester as my own city, because “wherever you set foot, that land will be yours.” (Deut 11:24)
When I’m back in Malaysia, I am to “show love to the foreigners (ie. the international students, Southeast Asian migrant workers and domestic helpers), for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of
EgyptManchester.” (Deut 10:18-19)
On a larger scale, I am also a foreigner in this world. Jesus prayed to his Father on my behalf and said “
theyshe do[es] not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” (John 17:14)
To sojourn is to stay somewhere temporarily. For me right now, it is Manchester. But I also stay temporarily on this earth because I am a citizen of heaven, born from above, for a higher calling and purpose in life. When I decided to follow Jesus, “
You areI am no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (Eph 2:19)
There are two premises to be made: (dual citizenship is not allowed)
I am a Malaysian citizen, therefore I am a foreigner in the UK.
I am a heavenly citizen, therefore I am a foreigner to the world.