“Citizens in Exile”

By Not Known

As National Day approaches in Singapore on 9 August, Christians in this land should ask what does it mean to be living as citizens in exile? As citizens of a particular country, we have our rights and obligations. That means we are committed to the city and the land. Christian citizens should speak up on matters related to life in Singapore. Exiles are only living temporarily as sojourners in the land. So they may not be very committed to the place. However, Christians live in tension as both citizens and exiles. We live in the land where God has placed us to reflect the “peace” or shalom of God. Yet we have an eye on the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, which will come down from heaven.

Writing to Jewish exiles, living in captivity in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah gives the following instructions: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer 29:4-7). Israel was sent to Babylon for 70 years. The exile from their land was a punishment due to sin. The Jewish people may be tempted to think that they might as well just sit there and wait it out for 70 years. Instead, God instructed them to seek the shalom in Babylon.

There are many parallels of life in modern day Singapore reflected in this passage. These include marriage, birth rate, property prices, and family life. Clearly Christians should seek the shalom of the city. The term shalom is rich in meaning. It includes such ideas as the quality of peace, welfare, and goodness. It refers to the goodness of the place where we live. In a word, Christians ought to contribute to the flourishing of the society in which God has placed us. May God bless his church in Singapore!