Living as Pilgrims
1 Peter 2:11 says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”
By referring to Christians as “foreigners and exiles,” the Apostle reminds us that this present world is not our permanent home. As followers of Christ, we are pilgrims, sojourners, tourists, temporary visitors. Our real home is the world to be revealed when Jesus returns.
What does it look like to live as a pilgrim? Here are some thoughts:
We should love the world without being tied to it. Tourists who visit NYC have a great time seeing the sights, eating in restaurants, and enjoying the many fun things to do. But they don’t run for City Council. In other words, they love New York but they know they don’t live here. In a similar way, Christians are to love this present world. We should rejoice in its beauty and weep over its sorrow. We should participate in our culture and actively serve our neighbors. But we should constantly remember that “here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). How might remembering this truth affect our lives? Paul writes that “those who buy something, [should live] as if it were not theirs to keep; [and] those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:30a-31).
We must grieve our sorrows, but not let them overwhelm us. Just as the pleasures of this world are temporary, so are its hardships. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul talked about being “hard pressed”, “perplexed”, “persecuted”, and “struck down”. He was not using hyperbole. Paul and his friends often endured deep sorrow and pain. But, compared to the eternal glory of Christ, Paul called all this trouble “light and momentary” (v. 17). It is healthy for Christians to mourn our losses and grieve our heart-breaks. (The book of Psalms teaches us this truth.) But a pilgrim mindset should guard us against being overwhelmed by sorrow. A tourist may complain about a lumpy hotel bed, but she won’t let it spoil her day at the museum. It is only temporary.
No matter what happens, we should always have hope. Most tourists travel to places more beautiful than their homes – a week at the beach, a trip to the mountains. The comforts and novelty of vacation can make the normal routines of life seem dull and unrewarding. Because of this, when vacation is over, tourists are sometimes sad to go back home. But, for Christians, our real home is far more beautiful than the world we are temporarily visiting. 1 Peter 1:4 says that there is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade … kept in heaven for [us]”. This thought should fill us with hope. The best is yet to come!