During one particular period in ancient Israel, the Jewish nation was overtaken by King Nabuchodonosor—and the people were driven from their homeland to live as exiles in Babylon.
These days, I’m feeling a bit exiled myself. You know the feeling, a stranger in a strange land. Do you feel this way sometimes? How did we get here?
What is Babylon?
Back then, Babylon was the capital of the kingdom of Babylonia. Today, we might say Babylon represents any system, culture, or country alienated from God. Also, Babylon demands total allegiance to idols or kings. It’s everything we might imagine as corrupt, immoral, brutal, and evil.
And what do we see around us today? We see a lack of modesty as anything goes with anyone you want it seems. We lament over a morally bankrupt society. The line between the truth and lies gets more blurred every day. It could revolve around any number of issues: riots, health, gender, sexual orientation, racism, drug abuse, corruption, abortion, guns, war, immigration, or the decline of religion—namely Christianity. Power and shame are today’s tools to get you what you want.
We feel like the world just doesn’t fit us. We wish that things could be different somehow. Today’s reality makes us feel this more intensely than ever.
We are in exile. Strangers in a strange land. We don’t feel so much at ease or at home.
What did the prophet Jeremiah say about this?
Your exile isn’t Babylon’s fault.
It’s your fault.
Wait. What! Who me?
Like the people of ancient Israel, we love to criticize Babylon and blame it for all our problems. But in many ways, we create Babylon. This occurs in a very real and deceptive way.
Tentacles of the beast
That cellphone or computer of yours? Do you know where the cobalt used to make its battery comes from? There’s a good chance it’s from a forced child labor mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In fact, Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla have all been sued for human rights abuses regarding the mining of cobalt which has led to death and injury of child miners.
That’s Babylon for you. You see, it’s not just a wild, reckless orgy (yes, the sordid side exists), but it’s also highly efficient and successful. It’s so slick you don’t even know you’re contributing to its wickedness. It’s a roaring machine of commerce that steamrolls ahead leaving the weak crushed under its weight.
At some time, haven’t we all felt this pang of guilt? We know our prosperity has been partially built on the backs of others. We know we could share more if we wanted to. It’s not always our fault, but we know it’s unfair.
How do we break out of this? I mean, the godliest people I know have cellphones and computers. Everybody I know has one. What should we do, reject all technology and live in the woods?
How can we go home? How do we escape our exile?
Focus on the real fight
There’s a flourishing sector of Christendom that’s basically a gang of professional finger pointers. It’s either all the progressive left’s fault or the Trump gang’s fault. Now there’s plenty of blame for both sides. However, many of these critics’ real motives are just part of a larger power grab. Follow the money trail, and you’ll quickly find out where motives are born.
Yes, we must hold accountable the powerful and those who promote chaos and violence, but what’s my real motive when I call them out? One thing is punitive justice—the kind that seeks punishment. The other is restorative justice—the kind that seeks restoration. That’s Jesus justice.
Where do I focus the majority of my efforts? What do I want deep in my heart?
Am I obsessed with policy change? Do I want to see the bad guy punished? Or like God, do I desire a change of heart?
I’ve experienced restorative justice first-hand. For many years in my life, I was full tilt-Babylon-sordid-side-included. I deserved punishment. But Jesus did not desire my shame or condemnation. Instead, he wanted to restore me. He wanted my heart.
Is this the spirit that moves us today?
Most of the mud-slinging I witness in our Babylon today has no desire for restoration. Instead, it’s a nasty war of words. Even if they seem calm and peaceful, you know the knives could come out at any time. They might mention hope for the restoration of souls—but they don’t seem too sincere. Instead, we sense deep resentment or the desire for control.
Understanding this doesn’t bring me home though, does it? It makes me feel even more exiled.
We all know deep down that we make compromises that might not help the common good. Even just paying taxes could go towards buying weapons to wage wars that make billions for military industry oligarchs.
Still, Jesus said to pay Caesar his taxes as the coin carried the image of Caesar. Jesus understood the futility of trying to escape exile through earthly ways. Our plans always end up compromised somehow. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.
But Jesus also said, give to God what is God’s. And who carries the image of God?
You do. I do. So give to God what is God’s. We are created in his image and likeness.
And in that truth, we begin to find a way home.
Even when the Jews returned to Israel, they were again under a new Babylon, the Roman Empire. Plus, even within their own tribe, some Israelites were corrupt and worshiped the idols of power and wealth. They continued to keep Babylon alive and well.
Then Jesus came. He showed what it really took to come home. He showed what’s required to shatter the yoke of exile. You must entrust everything to God.
‘Well, I’m not Jesus’ goes the easiest excuse of all time, right? Fine. But we can strive earnestly to be more like him. Put in a real, authentic effort. Fight the exile courageously. Rise above it. Let the Spirit of God conquer and restore your heart. Let him win more and more territory in the Babylon that hides in your inner self—that dark place where selfishness or resentment smolder.
Let the light of the Lord drive out the idols that enslave you.
And as that miracle works in your heart and soul, you return home. You find rest in your relationship with God as it’s healthy and pure. Hurtful people and intricate, lifeless systems have far less impact on you. Your efforts focus on healing and service. You become God’s response to the toxicity of this world.
Jesus justice looks like this…
When he was hanging on the cross, Jesus made an exclamation, a prophecy of sorts. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Later, after witnessing that Jesus gave up his last breath, a Roman centurion facing him said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Babylon is a cold, brutal system that rules over us and seeks loyalty over the human condition. It’s where compassion is optional, and God is a footnote.
Restorative justice comes from the bottom up, not the top down. It’s God serving us as man. It overflows with mercy and grace. It’s full of the Spirit. It’s human interactions with outpourings of love. And through restorative justice, lives change in miraculous ways.
And even soldiers of Babylon can come home.
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