Born For Babylon
Jeremiah prophesied that God’s people would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years. That means a lot of Hebrews lived and died only in Babylon; they never spent a day of their life in the Promised Land. They never saw the temple or traversed the topography of Zion. They were born across the great river, and there they died. Exiles, through and through.
We hear a lot of talk these days about finding God’s best life for you. We talk a lot about destiny and calling, always with the thought in mind that we are meant for something great. God has a great plan for your life that will exceed all your wildest expectations. It sounds so breathtaking and exhilarating–the spiritual equivalent of climbing El Capitan every day for the rest of your life.
But what if you’re meant for only exile? What if you’re one of those people who are born and who die in Babylon? What if God isn’t that interested in making all of your wildest dreams come true? What if he doesn’t care about how satisfying your life is?
Jesus talked a lot about losing your life, and how losing your life for his sake is the only way to really find it. We’ve hijacked that statement, and we’ve dressed up all of our egotistical insecurities about significance and success and greatness and accomplishment into Jesus-clothes. We lay down certain delusions of grandeur only to take up certain others that have been spiritualized and “sanctified”. We become counselors and pastors and professors and public servants; we start non-profits and plant churches because we want our lives to have some kind of significance, and we claim that these vocations, and these tasks, are how we “find significance in Christ”.
But what if finding your life really means losing your life and abandoning all hope of ever finding it again? What if Jesus really meant it when he said that we have to lose our lives for his sake, or that the last shall be first, and the first last? What if following Jesus means never being significant, or successful, or great? What if it means that you will accomplish very little in this lifetime?
Maybe you were born for Babylon. Others may go to Jerusalem, and even call you to follow them there, singing the songs of Zion. But you’re meant for Babylon. You’re one of the folks who has to lose his life, hoping not in unveiled significance later on in this life, but in redemption and resurrection in the life to come. You’re the one who has to throw yourself completely on Jesus and live with him in Babylon. Can you accept it?
Recently I heard a mature Christian state that “good things happen to good people”. He said that he had counseled others with that bit of wisdom. I’m not mature enough in my Christian walk to know exactly how (without sounding “holier-than-thou”) to remind him that Jesus explicitly promised us adversity, not because of the human condition but precisely because we followed him. And that “being good” is the effect, rather than the cause.
Good things certainly do happen to good people, but so do bad. Bad things happen to bad people, but so do good. Mt 5:45b: “since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Our focus should be less on determining precisely how God wants for us to be wildly successful, and more on us giving him all the glory for whatever degree of success (or lack thereof) we may experience.
Also, if it is God’s will that I am “born for Babylon”, then there’s a good and holy reason for that… perhaps it’s my job to be Jesus (give up my life) for the people around me who don’t realize they’re in exile. Being born for Babylon doesn’t mean I’ll never experience significance; it just means I need to adjust my perspective.
Well said, Preston.
Powerful words, Andy. We say we’re willing to lose our lives only because we’ve been told that we’ll find them again. We follow Jesus with lots of strings attached (or with many lines of fine print). What if there was NOTHING in it for me, at least not in this present life? Would I still follow Him simply because He loves me and I love Him?
I wish every follower of Jesus could read this!
Awesome insight Andy. I always seem to enjoy your posts. I really have a fear that many Christians are being led astray by some of the preachers and pastors in today’s Church. In some ways I wonder if they were born for Babylon. Between the rapture and the prosperity gospel is a chasm that is swallowing up too many naive souls. Revelation speaks to a great falling away and I wonder if this isn’t the pre-cursor. If the tribulation came today, many would fall away, cursing God in the act. We cannot continue to preach these heresies and not expect it to bring rebellion when then tribulation comes. As for me, I’ll be happy when it comes, because I know that I’ll be even closer to my true home and ready to leave this Babylon.
Preston, Dont underestimate yourself. those are some wise words..may be you should share them w/ this person
Great blog, andy
I hear ya! Many times I wonder if I am one of them-that this is what God has for me-or am I missing it, that I’m not really letting Christ live thourgh me fully. Ive come to tell myself I will continue to fight and proclaim “Jesus is Lord” reguardless. It is not for me to say to my Creator do this or that but to be a witness for Him. He made me and has a plan for me. The Lord ultimatle uses people to bring peoples to himself that He be known as the One true God.