Amazingly, it has been about three months since I last did one of these “Scripture Reflections” posts. This is not because I have quit reading Scripture or because I no longer have anything to say about it—at first, I just had lots of other things I wanted to write about, and lately, I have been so overwhelmed with work that I haven’t had time to write much of anything. And today’s post will be short—it was just something that struck me as I was reading today and wanted to get down on [digital] paper.
In the midst of a discussion on various heroes of faith, the Hebrew writer says:
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land form which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Above, these people of faith are described as “seeking a homeland.” This was true in a physical sense for Abraham and Sarah, who left their homeland to go to the place which God directed them, but in a deeper sense, it is true (or should be true) of all of God’s people.
The older I get, the more keenly aware I am that this world, which was created “good” but was broken and cursed by plague of sin, is not a suitable homeland for me. I yearn for a better, kinder, more whole place. And this is a normal feeling (or at least, it should be): the New Testament in several places indicates that Christians are sojourners who are out of place in this world, and citizens of another (John 15.18-19, John 17.16, Philippians 3.20, 1 Peter 2.11).
Unfortunately, I think our modern world—with all of its distractions and comforts—frequently makes Christians forget that this isn’t, in fact, their homeland. We obsess over the things of this life and arrange our lives based on the priorities of the world. Then, we aren’t content with those lives, and what’s more, we’re surprised that we aren’t content, missing the point that we’re not supposed to be content and at peace with a life that is so anchored in this world.
And the irony is, by being so focused on this world, we don’t actually benefit the world much at all. C.S. Lewis once said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
We desperately need to recover our sense of being pilgrims in this world and longing for the next. It enables us to have contentment in our lives, and to better benefit those around us. Remember, we are people who are “seeking a homeland.”