If you went around asking people to define what an alien was, I am sure there would be a multitude of answers.
Legally, an alien refers to any person who is not a citizen of a given country. The word itself is derived from the latin alienus, meaning stranger, or belonging somewhere else.
Most people have seen the ET movie. If you have not, it is the story of a boy who befriends and extraterrestrial, known as ET, who becomes stranded on earth. The boy, along with others, help “ET” return to his home planet, whilst keeping him hidden from the government.
And so you are asking yourself, what has this got to do with anything? I thought the same thing, until I was involved in a conversation with a client at work.
I work as an aged care chaplain. As you can imagine, I have plenty of interesting conversations, across many different faith traditions. Different philosophies, experiences and interpretation of theology contribute to the conversation.
In one such conversation came the idea that Christians are aliens. I know, I was stunned as well when it was mentioned.
But then I sat with the thought for a minute. If an alien is someone who is not a citizen of a country, then it does not make sense. But if we trace back to the meaning from the latin word, meaning stranger, or belonging somewhere else, then it makes perfect sense.
In the book of Psalms, we are told it is God who made us, and we belong to him. We are his people (Psalm chapter 100, verse 3).
Paul tells believers in the book of Romans that if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
John backs up Paul in this regard, mentioning that we are children of God. “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John chapter 3 verse 2)
If we belong to God and are His people, and the world does not understand God, then does this make us aliens in the world?
If we truly believe the Scripture, then we understand heaven in our home, and earth for our lifetime is temporary. Therefore we must be aliens of this world, if the meaning of alienus is in fact belonging elsewhere.
So what has triggered this thought?
My job is quite difficult. You find yourself in some strange emotional spaces. One in particular is the end of life stage in palliative care. If you are unsure what that is, it is the point when someone is taking their last breath.
As a Chaplain, I am often in that space, taking the person through final prayers, as they go to be with God if they are a believer and have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
But I have noticed as a fellow believer, we are really giving someone the right to go home. If we believe then we do not belong here. We are strangers that belong elsewhere.
I find this greatly encouraging. Especially when understanding grief, death and dying. Often we are searching for answers no one knows the answer to. We are trying the wrap our heads around what is happening here on earth.
We will never be able to completely comprehend life on earth. I am happy knowing that it is because I belong elsewhere, and am just visiting presently. I am a stranger to earth, because I belong to God.
In the meantime, there is work to be done.