We used to sing a song that went like this-
This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
This thought struck me hard when I read a Facebook post by a friend last week. His thoughts simply echo what I hear all the time from Christians. Here is what he said:
I am trying very hard not to be totally negative on the future of my country, but I confess it is hard not to be. A coalition of political correctness advocates, feminists, gays, union leaders, environmental extremists, the media, Hollywood, uninformed young people, the chronically unemployed, undocumented immigrants and other “fellow travelers” have ended the America I grew up in… We are a nation that needs to turn back to God. However, all those groups listed above are trying very hard to prevent it. If there was ever a time Americans need to get on their knees and beg for God’s mercy on our nation, it is now.
It is the attitude that the world is going to “hell in a hand basket.” Our future is bleak. Who can disagree with that? If it is true that the way of life we have always known and loved is falling apart and the changes are not going to be good, then it seems to make perfect sense that we should be upset.
But, are we supposed to be upset that our nation is changing, the economy is failing, the government is imploding, and the environment is crumbling? It seems that we are preoccupied with these things. Christians are notorious for issuing warnings about what is being said and done by those who would destroy our world. We are frequently called to take up arms (or at least a good boycott of something) in the fight to stand for what is right and good and Christian.
These warnings appear to be even more powerful if they are accompanied with the fear that specific people are out to destroy us. According to my friend’s Facebook post mentioned earlier, for him these frightening people are “political correctness advocates, feminists, gays, union leaders, environmental extremists, the media, Hollywood, uninformed young people, the chronically unemployed, undocumented immigrants and other ‘fellow travelers’…” At least now I know who to keep my eye on. Unless he has a touch of paranoia that means about half the world is out to destroy us.
Here is my problem! The message that Christians have to offer the world is not that we can make this a better place. Our purpose is not to return to a better way of life, or even pray that God would miraculously intervene and bring us to our knees. The Good News we have to offer is that “this world is not our home.”
Too much of what I hear under the name of Christ is that the Christian faith will provide everything you want in life with the added benefit of eternal life in heaven.
- The world says we should strive to get ahead financially and the church comes along and gives us a Christian plan for being financially successful while simultaneously pleasing God.
- The world says we should prepare ourselves to be successful in business and Christian leaders churn out book after book on leadership.
- The world suggests we should eat healthy and exercise so Christians produce diet plans that strengthen the body and soul.
- The world wants to be entertained so the church provides multimedia worship, contemporary Christian music, and Hollywood style films.
- The world wants to have safe kids, freedom from worry, the latest gadgets, and time to enjoy it all so the church says, “We understand. Come over here and we will help you find it all plus…”
However, the truth, which is the only worthwhile thing Christians have to offer, is that we don’t live in or for this world. The words of the song, “This world is not my home,” are clearly confirmed by the Word of God.
Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:19)
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went 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 a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
Rather than telling folks we can help them get a bigger piece of this pie, perhaps we should be telling them about a better pie.
Have you noticed that your doctor’s office does not have beds, soaker tubs, and recliners in the waiting room? The reason is because it is not a place where you need to be too comfortable, because hopefully you will not be staying long. Your doctor’s goal is to get you out of his office and back home where you belong. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t care that the magazines are two years old or that nobody can find the remote to change the TV station.
For the same reasons we must guard ourselves from becoming too comfortable in this world – since we are simply passing through. This does not mean we don’t care about stuff, but it does mean we need to keep things in perspective.
If the Republicans (or Democrats) win the next election it will not be the end of civilization as we know it. If gay people are allowed to marry it is not a sign that everything of value is ruined. There is nothing in this world that can destroy our home since this world is not our home.
When I speak of living in a different world it is not a reference to heaven, some future idyllic place. I mean we live in a different kingdom here and now. Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)
Yet, Peter did fight. He grabbed his sword and lopped off the ear of an arresting Roman soldier. He probably wanted to protect the kingdom of Jesus by protecting the king. We tend to do the same thing when we rant about the ills of the world and fight against our “enemies.” But, we are not citizens of this world; we live in a different kingdom.
Instead of grabbing as much of this world as we can, we are able to appreciate and enjoy the world Jesus has given to us. The world we live in is not filled with stuff that money can buy or that power can influence. It is a world characterized by heavenly treasures. Perhaps one way to picture that world is to think about what it must have been like for Jesus’ disciples as they walked with him. When they were in his presence they must have experienced a world that had nothing to do with Roman occupation, worry about the next meal, or fear of storms at sea.
When we find ourselves continually striving to get more stuff, or constantly worried about losing the stuff we already have, it might be evidence that we are living in the wrong world, a world that is not really our home. The things of God’s world cannot be lost.
Rather than ranting on Facebook about the sorry state of the world, perhaps my friend (who is a Christian, by the way) could be extolling the peace, joy, and contentment that comes in the midst of a crumbling world because we are simply passing through.