The most difficult question for a missionary kid to answer is “where are you from?” I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, moved to Mexico City, Chattanooga, Tennessee, then to Canton, Ohio. After high school I went to college in Chicago, and now I live in Guatemala.
I have spent almost half of my life in Latin America and the other half in the United States. When you ask me where I am from, I sincerely do not know.
For a lot of people the concept of home is full of nostalgic memories of holidays, birthdays, joys and blessings and maybe tragedies and difficulty.
Some people might say that my anchor-less childhood is not healthy. I beg to differ. One of the primary ways that believers are identified in the New Testament is as “pilgrims”. The Bible uses other words also — strangers, exiles, sojourners. Though many of us love our idea of home, we run the dangerous risk of coming to believe that it actually is our home.
All of this drifting in my life from place to place has taught me three foundational truths that must be remembered by all followers of Jesus.
This is not home.
The United States has created a kind of society that is extremely appealing to anyone and everyone, most of all to those who live there. We love our houses, our friendly neighborhoods, the quiet nights, obedient citizens. All in all, many cities in the United States experience an almost utopian existence in comparison with much of the rest of the world.
This kind of serenity can create a false sense of home. It is easy to get comfortable in our climate-controlled houses and cars and customer-centric consumer culture, where everything that you could ever want is at the tip of your fingers.
Many of us need a gentle reminder that this is not our home.
Hebrews 13:14 gives us this very reminder, “For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come.”
We were called to mission, not to comfort.
In the midst of so many wonderful things that exist in the United States it is easy to become distracted. And that might be a pretty big understatement. I know that we do not often like to answer the big existential questions, but, really, why does your life exist? Is comfort a good enough reason?
Aldous Huxley may have been speaking prophetically when he wrote Brave New World. Being so overcome with pleasure, we do not have time to look for answers to the questions that matter.
When I am in the United States I often think about our brothers and sisters who are in countries under unjust regimes, where it is illegal to speak the name of Jesus. They know clearly that they are in the world at this moment not to be comfortable, but to speak the gospel to those who have not heard, despite what it may cost them. We are still here to enjoy God while pursuing His mission. Comfort is only bad when it distracts us from fulfilling our calling.
David Platt reminds us of this in his well-known book Radical, “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”
We will stand face to face with God and give an account for what we have done with what He gave us.
Justice will prevail.
Believe it or not, many, if not most, Christians do not enjoy legitimate justice. For many there is a deep angst for home, but they know that this is not home. They know it is not their home because they know that home is just, because God is just.
The majority of Christians in the world are not wealthy, are often mistreated for their faith by family and friends, consistently face suffering, and do not have the means, both economic and social, to actually fight for justice. They long for a just home ruled by a just Father.
Peter is speaking precisely to these types of Christians in his first letter. He consistently reminds them that their suffering is only for a short time, while they wait for “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” (1:4). Especially as we come out of the holiday season I want to encourage you to delight in your home, but remember that it is merely a shadow of something greater to come. As a former seminary professor used to tell us “Saints, we are just passing through.”