Pilgrimage. Journey. These are words descriptive of the Christian faith. They indicate that we are in process. We aren’t home yet. Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University called Christians “resident aliens” to indicate that though we live here, we are citizens of another country – a heavenly one. Perhaps our experience should be akin to that of Enoch in Genesis 5:24 – we walk with God so far that He eventually brings us home to His house. However you slice it, this world at present is not what God made it to be, nor what He is redeeming it to be, and therefore it is not yet the place of our ultimate peace and satisfaction. We ain’t home yet.
Once Paradise was lost, the way back home to God necessarily became one of longing, wandering, searching and journeying. Abram was called to leave his family and country and simply “go to the land that I will show you” – which, incidentally, turned out to be some 1500 miles away. His descendants spent 400 years in slavery in another country, and when they came out of that country they wandered for 40 years before settling in the land God had promised to Abraham. These experiences the Church has ever understood to be paradigmatic for the people of God. The story of Abraham, the story of Israel, is our story.
As the writer of Hebrews puts it (Heb 11:8-16), “Abraham…was called to go out to a place that he
was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents…. He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…. [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah] 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 earth.” And he goes on to say that people who speak and live thus show that they desire a better country, a heavenly country, in which God Himself is preparing for them a city. All this is meant to describe the experience of faith.
So we put down roots – but not too deeply.
We build houses and accumulate stuff – but we hold on to such things loosely.
We live – but we know the deeper and fuller life is yet to come.
We plant flags of faith in this world, knowing that God has promised this to us as our inheritance. One Day....