Leaving Country and Kin


Leaving Country and Kin

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred…”
And Abram went.
(Genesis 12:1, 4)

In the story the Bible tells it’s Abraham who sends the narrative in a new direction—from a steady migration away from God, to a journey into the Unknown and toward God. Prior to Abraham what do we find in the story? Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise, Cain killing Abel and founding human civilization with bloody hands, a violent world under a flood of judgment, and finally Babylon rising in rebellion to God. It’s a world moving away from God.

Enter Abraham.
Faith man.
Walking man.
Friend of God.
Patriarch of a new humanity.

Rabbinic tradition tells us Abraham’s father was an idol maker. Well, there’s no doubt that Abraham grew up in a nation and family populated by a pantheon of utilitarian gods—useful gods who could be called upon and cajoled, controlled and manipulated; little gods who could be courted and counted upon for the maintenance of the status quo.

It was none of these gods that called Abraham to leave country and kin. The gods of Babylon would never do that! They were, in fact, the creation of country of kin, or if you prefer, the deification of country and kin.

But this God, this speaking God, this El Shaddai, this Yahweh, this “I AM” calls Abraham to leave country and kin…and Abraham does.

This is what makes Abraham both great and the pattern for every believer thereafter.

We are all products of country and kin. We become the self that our national culture and family identity forms us to be. This is unavoidable. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s part and parcel with becoming a human being. To become a self we require a language, a culture, a set of values, a community, a certain identity—all of this comes from our country and kin. But this is also necessarily inadequate for those who want to become the people of God.

To become the people of God always involves a call away from country and kin.


And it always takes faith to heed the call to leave country and kin. It’s probably the hardest thing we’ll ever do.

If we lack the faith of Abraham we will try to hustle God into allowing us to stay with country and kin and still receive the promised blessing. God will not do this.

(Though we try convince ourselves otherwise, and may even begin to believe that one of the god’s crafted in our family idol shop is God.)

No, Abraham must leave country and kin.

When Abraham does this, he makes two crucial discoveries:

1. God is present everywhere.

2. Abraham is alien everywhere.

This God who called Abraham differed from his father’s gods in his invisibility. Invisibility is part of God’s omnipresence. Because God is not precisely there, he can be always here, which is, to say,  everywhere. In leaving his country and kin, Abraham discovered that God was not confined to nationality or ethnicity—he is everywhere. The sins of nationalism and racism are partly rooted in the unwillingness to recognize that God is everywhere.

But this newly discovered phenomenon of God being everywhere made Abraham an alien everywhere. To leave country and kin to become a follower of the living God means that national and family identity have experienced a profound subordination to an infinitely higher reality—the reality of being a child of God. To see yourself as truly a child of God makes national and family identity mere accidentals. “Home” takes on a new and transcendent meaning. Being at home everywhere is closely related to being an alien everywhere. This has something to do with God’s insistence that his people pay special attention to caring for aliens, because there is a sense in which we are all aliens.

Of course how we live out our own experience of Abraham’s call will likely vary significantly from Abraham’s actual experience. Most will not be called to physically relocate to another nation (though some will). But we are all called to move beyond the cultural and familial assumptions about God we have inherited from country and kin. To put it more bluntly and in a specific context: To continue the journey of faith, the American Christian will eventually be called to leave the “American Jesus” who is little more than a hired spokesperson used to endorse the cultural assumptions of Americanism. Thinking that God can be nationalized so as to prioritize the economic interests of your own particular country is a practice characteristic of Babylon, but discarded in the faith of Abraham. (Eventually the requisite political mantra of, “God bless America,” will begin to sound a little weird in your ears, a bit too much like God can be conscripted for the service of our national interests. The Abrahamic covenant fulfilled in Christ is that all nations are blessed.)

This is why Abraham lives the rest of his life as both an alien and the friend of God.


Leave your country and kin.

Find God everywhere.

Be at home everywhere.

Become an alien everywhere.

Become the friend of God.

Of course this is not easy. That’s why it’s called faith. If it’s easy, it may be many things—including a personal religion cobbled together in the family idol shop—but it’s not faith! Richard Rohr puts it well when he says…

“If change and growth are not programmed into your spirituality, if
there are not serious warnings about the blinding nature of fear and
fanaticism, your religion will always end up worshiping the status
quo and protecting your present ego position and personal
advantage—as if it were God!” —Richard Rohr, “Falling Upward”

The faith of Abraham is the faith that leaves country and kin in order to find God in greater truth.

The faith of Abraham is the faith that subordinates all loyalties to the living God including the most demanding loyalties of country and kin.

The faith of Abraham is willing to live as an alien everywhere if this is what it takes to distinguish God from the idols of country and kin.

The faith of Abraham is what expands the blessing of God from my country and my kin, to all the families of the earth being blessed.

The faith of Abraham subordinates the family of Terah to the family of God.

The faith of Abraham forsakes the city of Babylon to find the New Jerusalem.

The faith of Abraham is the faith that finds its fulfillment in a life of following Christ.



(The artwork is Abraham and the Three Angels by Marc Chagall)