Pilgrims Today, but Not Tomorrow

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Pilgrims Today, but Not Tomorrow

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The sun slides down the horizon as we make our way along one of the green valleys at the city's edge. "Oh look, there's a new tent!" someone calls. Moments later we see a Bedouin woman leading her flock of goats along the hillside.

Like a true pilgrim, she has no permanent home but wanders wherever the green paths lead, with family and herds in tow.

A pilgrim can be a traveler, a newcomer, a foreigner or a wanderer. In fact, I'm a pilgrim.

My wife and I are spending this year far from our rural American home working as volunteer teachers in Amman, Jordan. This part of the Middle East has epic stories of wandering that go back for millennia. Not far from here, God began working with a special man named Abram.

Abram lived in a city called Ur (in Iraq), but God told him to leave the city—that he needed to wander. God called; Abram answered—he had faith that God knew best. He left his home, wandering eventually to the land of Canaan. He gave up his familiar life in Ur to live as a stranger in a strange land.

For the rest of Abram's days, the comforts of his home city remained a distant memory as he pitched his tents surrounded by people who lived differently. God blessed his faithfulness, however, by increasing his wealth and changing his name to Abraham, promising that many nations and kings would come from his descendants (Genesis 17:3-8 Genesis 17:3-8 [3] And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, [4] As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. [5] Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you. [6] And I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you, and to your seed after you. [8] And I will give to you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
American King James Version×
). To learn more about this "father of the faithful," read "Profiles of Faith: Abraham, God's Friend."

Centuries later God's call to live as pilgrims was widened to include people like you and me. This time, it was Jesus of Nazareth who told His followers that their home and first citizenship weren't tied to the country in which they were born, but rather to the place where God lives.

Christians may not have passports stamped "Kingdom of God" across the cover, but still they live their lives based on the expectations of this divine society. Christians know their ultimate home is that soon-coming kingdom, so they live by its laws first, even while living law-abiding, peaceful lives in their present physical land. That's why Christians are pilgrims no matter where they settle. Even if they die in the towns in which they were born, they are wanderers because they aren't really "at home" in this world.

Here in Jordan everyone knows that I'm not Jordanian. They find it humorous when I try to act like one. I get to enjoy the Jordanian culture, but I am still a part of American society too.

Wherever they are, true Christians are also expected to act differently from the people around them. Instead of acting prideful, vengeful or greedy, we focus on the values of service, character, love and sharing—things important to God.

Sometimes pilgrims have their challenges. For the Bedouin woman, droughts often dry up all the green grass. For Abraham, there were battles and tests along the way.

But being a pilgrim also has its benefits. As God made physical promises to Abraham, He has made spiritual promises of eternal life to the Christian who now embraces His way of life (Hebrews 11:13-16 Hebrews 11:13-16 [13] These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. [14] For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. [15] And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. [16] But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: why God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 19:29 Matthew 19:29And every one that has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred times, and shall inherit everlasting life.
American King James Version×
).

Like Abraham, we wander arduously around this earth, anticipating when our true home will soon appear. We may be pilgrims today, but not tomorrow! VT

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