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Are we ‘foreigners’ in Britain?

 

I lived for four years in Russia – I love the country and I’ve learned a lot from my Russian friends.  I was born in Kenya – I love the country and I’ve learned a lot from my Kenyan friends.  But my passport says that I am British.  English was the first language I learnt.  And England feels like home.  As economic migrants continue to come in, and refugees seek asylum, I want Britain to remain British.  I want what is definitively British to continue.  I want those who choose to make their home here to learn to speak English, to learn about our history and our culture, to integrate with us and make friends with us, to send their children to the same schools as us.  These things are important.

 

And yet while I am English, much more than that, I am a son of God (1 John 3:1).  This has been my primary identity ever since I put my trust in Jesus’s death and resurrection for me and was united to him.  I now belong to him (1 Pet 2:9), I’ve joined his family – the household of God (Eph 2:19).  Now I am a heavenly citizen (Phil 3:20).  My true home is in heaven and so I am a foreigner, an exile here in Britain (1 Pet 1:1; 2:11).

 

Being a foreigner here means four things:

  1. I have more in common with an Iranian or Brazilian Christian than I do with a British non-Christian.  And so I should act like it, loving my Christian brothers and sisters no matter where they are from, no matter how different they are to me.  This love will take time and effort as we learn more about each other, as we challenge things in our cultures which don’t fit with the gospel, and celebrate what does.
  2. Britain is not my true home and so I won’t try and protect it from any change whatsoever.  I may seek to promote the English language and British culture, but I will be interested to learn from other cultures.  I won’t feel threatened by or fearful of change.  This country won’t last forever; my true home will.
  3. I understand what it is like to be a stranger so I will have compassion on other ‘foreigners’ here – those seeking asylum, those fleeing war, famine, terrorism, dictatorship in their home countries, those trying to find a better home.  I will do my best to make a better home here for them.
  4. I will speak about my real home to all I meet.  I will tell them why it is better than any home here on earth, and how they can find it – through a relationship with Jesus, who goes to prepare a room for all who will believe and trust in him.

 

These things are often unnatural to me because sometimes I forget I am a foreigner here and think Britain is my real home.  So I need to continually remind myself of my true identity – a child of God, a citizen of heaven, a foreigner in Britain.

Tom Martin