Have you ever been an alien? I have — a registered, certified alien. There may be reason to doubt, but, no, not the extra-terrestrial kind. As a single American for four years in Mexico, and as a wife, then mother, for 28 years in the Philippines, I was a resident alien. I needed to continually apply and pay for visas to enjoy living among the citizens of these countries.
I remember one 1,500-mile round trip I made alone by bus from my home in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to the Texas border and back, just to renew my visa. That was one of many trips I/we made to apply for visas over the years, to embassies and bureaus of immigration, by bus, taxi or plane. We never knew if we would continue being accepted as aliens or not.
With my brothers and sisters in Christ in Mexico and the Philippines, however, it was a different story. We may not have looked exactly the same, but we had an immediate kinship. We belonged together. Jesus’ love had changed all of our hearts. How rich I am because of the love, acceptance, kindness and protection of my brothers and sisters from these two countries, and others.
From the beginning that was God’s intent for all of us. All loved, all family.
Shame, sorrow and separation
What happened? When sin entered the world (read the story in the Bible, Genesis 1-3), everything fell apart. Shame, sorrow, and separation became the new normal. The apostle Paul describes what it was like for all of us in the biblical book of Ephesians, chapter 2.
We were spiritually dead in our sins, indulging the desires of the flesh and mind, destined for wrath (verses 1-3).
But God, because of His great love toward us, made us alive — He saved us from our sins. He raised us up with Christ, so that forever He might show us the surpassing riches of His grace. We were created new in Christ to do the good works He had prepared (vv. 4-10).
We had been excluded — strangers to the covenants of promise God gave to His people, the Jews. We had no hope and were without God in the world (vv. 11-12).
But now, we are brought near to God by the blood of Christ, spilled for us all on the cross. He is our peace. He broke down the wall that divided us. We who believe — Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) — have access in one Spirit to the Father. We are fellow citizens with all who believe, and even more: members of God’s household. Because of Jesus, all of us are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (vv.13-22).
A more vivid set of before-and-after pictures would be hard to find.
A chapter for today
Formerly, the Jews had been circumcised to show that they were God’s people. Now it became clearer: all that the Jews or we who are Gentiles needed was the circumcision of our hearts — the removal of our sin through faith in Jesus.¹
Once we belong to Jesus, He unites our hearts with all who believe. People of any religious, political, or cultural background, ethnicity, age or social standing — anyone — can become family! Ephesians 2 is a chapter for today, when many people are fractured into belligerent groups. Ephesians 2 tells us it doesn’t have to be that way.
We who believe are privileged to offer this grace, this peace, this oneness, to all who are standing where we used to be.
You can know
If you are not sure of your standing before God, you can know: He loves you. He longs for you to experience all the privileges and joys of belonging to Him. If you ask Him to take away your sin and shame, He will.
You won’t have to wonder if someday you will be rejected — an alien again. No, you will be a permanent citizen of His heavenly country. Jesus’ blood on the cross guarantees your heavenly residence papers, and your spiritual adoption papers as well! Eternity with Him starts when He makes you His own. You’re accepted, you’re loved, you belong. You’re family forever.
The “Aliens No Longer” song
I made up a song (below) to help myself memorize Ephesians 2. I was inspired several months ago by Bible teacher Beth Moore’s call to memorize this chapter. In the alternating sections, I tried to reflect the painful situation we were in as aliens, and the joy of being accepted into God’s family. You may want to learn my song, too.
If not, you can still sing a new song — a song of His love for you. Jesus will write it in your heart if you ask Him.
Your new family is waiting for you!
¹(See Romans 2:25-29.)