“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV)

Team Australia? Yes and No!

Pauline Hanson and now Sonia Kruger have called for curbs to be placed on Muslim migration levels into Australia. I believe the concern of each has been a seeming lack of integration of Muslims into the Australian community, failing to join Tony Abbot’s, ‘Team Australia.’

I am appalled by the lack of integration seen in terrorist acts against fellow countrymen, whether it be in Paris, Nice, Orlando or Sydney. However, as a Christian, I battle integration issues!

The prophet Jeremiah wrote to the leaders of Judah who had been forcibly exiled to Babylon in 586 B.C. He wrote a letter to the exiles passing on the message of, ‘the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel.’ (Jeremiah 29:4) The letter urges the exiles to settle down, build houses, marry and increase in number; for contrary to what other prophets tell them, theirs will be a long exile.

Then he says, ‘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 29:7).

Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had forcibly exiled the cream of Judean society, so that he could keep them under close watch in Babylon. Nevertheless, this forced exile was under the sovereign oversight of God, who rules in all things.

Our Muslim neighbours are here by their own choice; the Judean leaders were there against their own will, yet their attitude is to be a model for us all. We are to seek the peace and prosperity of the city.

Christians are pilgrims. We are here on a temporary visa; we belong elsewhere. Our permanent home is, ‘the city that is to come’ (Hebrews 13:14); ‘our citizenship is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20). However, we are to pray and work for the peace and prosperity of Australia. We ask God to give wisdom to our leaders; we seek to be law abiding and productive, so that we may share generously with those in need. We seek to ensure the continuance of peace and freedom so that we may continue to share the gospel; because we know that eternity is an endless time, and an unpleasant prospect without Christ.

Nevertheless, as members of Team Australia, we recognise a higher loyalty, so that we will not be totally integrated team members. A pattern of disregard for God; a pride-filled desire to serve self and be independent of standards of morality as-long-as-I-get-what- I-want, are evident characteristics of our fellow team members.

This desire to marry and promote self and divorce the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who has a rightful claim on us, is a pattern which we must actively resist (Romans 12:2). That was Jeremiah’s message to the exiles – seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon, but don’t forget to whom you belong and pay His hopeful word your ultimate allegiance by trusting in Him (Jeremiah 30-31).

For us, lack of integration will be evident in prayerfulness, deep humility as those who have benefited from God’s undeserved favour, and courage which speaks when it is more comfortable to be silent. There was a time when separation from the world, and holiness of life were a far more common emphasis than today. We seem to bend over backward to show that we are no different to other Team Australia members.

We are great sinners like everyone else, but we have a Great Redeemer who has paid the price to bring us out of exile and bondage to sin. We now live for Him, anticipating our eternal country to come.

Team Australia? Yes and No!

Rt Rev David Cook

Posted 19 July 2016