Exile is not something we actively seek out as a favored experience or place to visit. Indeed, there is something ominous-sounding in the very word. Typically, exile means being temporarily relocated in a place not of one's choosing, due to circumstances, consequences, or conditions that are uncomfortable at best.
Adam and Eve experienced exile because they disobeyed God's command. Israel was in self-imposed exile in Egypt and forced exile in Babylonia. Joseph and Mary left Bethlehem for a time of protective exile in Egypt because Herod sought to kill Jesus.
Thomas Wolfe once wrote, "You can't go home again." Jesus said that no prophet was without honor except in his own country.
In a sense then, maybe exile is where we spend some of our time on this spiritual and physical journey we call life. Exile may be of our own choosing or it may be forced upon us.
Engaging freedom without acknowledging responsibility has forced some of us into temporary exile.
The prodigal son experienced exile in a vile and filthy place, surrounded by pigs. All the while, however, he knew that his exile was self-imposed. By his own hand, he chose the well-traveled road that leads to exile.
Exiles nearly always remember home. The fragrance of a flower, the smell of fresh rain, and the sounds of laughter may trigger memories and images of home in the heart and mind. Often, exiles find others with which to congregate in order to share their stories and numb their pain. At what point do exiles declare emancipation from their prisons of separation or enslavement? To what power or authority do they appeal for liberation?
This is really the story of the gospel—Jesus is the Lord of exiles. His power liberates the exile to return home to reunion with God the Father!
Let your spirit soar on the wings of testimonies of God's amazing grace that reaches the exile, and know that wherever you are, His grace can reach you too!
David J. Felter is editor in chief.
Holiness Today, March/April 2007
Please note: This article was originally published in 2007. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.