Living in a Strange Land

ALIVE Magazine

Way back in 1978 Boney M had a hit single called “Rivers of Babylon”. I can hear it in my head now . . .

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.

Only after I had heard the song a number of times did I realise the words were from the Bible – Psalm 137.
The context of the Psalm is that the Jews were in captivity far from their own land. So they ask, “How can we sing when we are so much in sorrow?”
Although not quite as desperate as the Israelites, the church finds itself in a similar position today. But it’s not that we have been taken to a foreign land. Rather it’s that the landscape in which we have always lived has changed – so much so that it is indeed a strange land.
For the past 1500 years the dominant culture of the West has been Christian. Even in Australia, where European settlement was relatively late and started as a penal colony, the culture had a Christian base. For the most part the church’s place in society was clear and generally accepted by all.
However, things have changed and the prevailing culture is no longer Christian. The traditions that formed the basis of our Western world (“Christendom”) have ended, and so has the church’s place in that world. Just about every day there is a cry from the media that the church is out of touch. For the first time in centuries, in many places through the West the church finds itself no longer in the centre of society but living on the margins.
Suddenly, we are in a strange place asking, “Now how shall we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land?” For the Israelites, the answer was not easy and did not come straight away. How can we expect anything different? Yet this is not a time for despair. The Israelites still had a future and so do we.
Our hope for ALIVE Magazine is to provide inspiration and help as we learn to live faithfully in this strange land. We could be tempted to flee from the dilemmas we face. But this is our time – the time and place we are called to be followers of Jesus.
Stephen Baxter,
Managing Editor,
ALIVE Magazine, Sept 2001



One Reply to “Living in a Strange Land”

  1. You were spot on then Stephen and now you’ve hit the jackpot….
    Roll on the reformation and let’s find our feet as we sojourn as strangers in a very strange land.

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