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Friday, August 13, 2010

Longing for Home

"The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep, he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain tops. But lo! men have become the tools of their tools [...] We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven. We have adopted Christianity merely as an improved method of agri-culture. We have built for this world a family mansion, and for the next a family tomb."
-Henry David Thoreau in "Walden"

Have Christians forgotten heaven? We read in 1 Peter "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul." (2:11) and in Philippians "But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (3:20)

The early Christians lived this out in a radical way, casting aside many of the social norms and expectations of the day to build up the kingdom of God among them while pursuing the heavenly Kingdom. The things of this world had no hold on them, as was evidenced by their lives. There was something different about these people. For one thing, their compassion and generosity - but also their inability to be persuaded to compromise their lives of faith by wealth, power, or acts of violence. They were concerned only with the eternal and from this came their sense of freedom and joy.

So is it obvious today that we as Christians are not of this world? Some who, as they work to build up God's kingdom on earth have simply left behind the eternal. And then there are some who talk about heaven but live very much as though their time on earth is all they've got, devoting themselves to a life of comfort and favorable social status. And even if we don't fall into one of these two conditions, it is very easy to be eluded by the bombarding messages of society telling us what we must do or have or be. So many things are competing for our attention and devotion everyday. Before we know it, we've lost sight of the the heavenly.

We as Christians should be longing for our true homeland with a sense of joyful expectation and a detachment from this world. We are indeed aliens and sojourners in this strange land, beautiful though it may be. A song from my childhood comes to mind: "This land is not my home, I'm just passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angles beckon me from heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in this world anymore." I think we would do well to remember this a little more often and maybe if we lived like it were true, folks would be more convinced that we really BELIEVE the promises of Christ.

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