Our first duty is to love nothing here; but let us place our affections above, our desires above, our wisdom above, and above let us seek our home; for the fatherland is where our Father is.
- Columbanus, Sermon VIII (Irish, 7th century)
These 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. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
- Hebrews 11.13-16
Politics is depressing. Necessary, to be sure, but depressing. The level of spite and malice in the current GOP primary contest rises with each new primary. We can only image how hateful the race for the presidency will become once the Republican candidate is decided.
It makes me glad this world is not my home. Don't get me wrong: I rejoice to be an American and thank God daily for the privileges and benefits my earthly country provides. But when the writer of Hebrews explains that Abraham and the others sought a homeland and a "better country" than the one they lived in on earth, I understand what that's about. I long for the same.
We are strangers and exiles here, and the more consistent we are in living for Christ and proclaiming His Kingdom, the more evident it will become that this is our status among the people of our native land. Political campaigns offer a mirror of the values and priorities of the people, and at this particular time, people want security in the form of jobs and a stable economy. They'll vote for whoever promises to bring the most economic security into their lives, and they won't much care about anything else he happens to believe.
People for whom this world is the only home they know naturally want to be prosperous and happy here. But can they ever be prosperous and happy enough? We were made for God, not for the false deities of wealth, convenience, and ease. We will never know rest in our souls until we learn to live beyond these present circumstances in the age to come, the city to come, and before the Lord in heaven.
Our calling as believers is to lead the way to the true city, to help people gain the real wealth, and to resist the depressing, self-serving, and at times mean-spirited temper of the times. How can we focus our lives beyond the uncertainties of the here and now to the glory which is to be then and there? What difference will it make if we do?
I feel the challenge of this every day, and I hope you do, too. Let's encourage one another to seek the city to come, to live for the new world in the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. And while we yet have homes and duties and friends and the like here and now, let's remember that our primary purpose in this life is not to consume our time on ourselves, but to use our time to point beyond time to the timeless Christ and His eternal Kingdom.
Then we, too, with the saints who have gone before, will find our rest and hope in that city to come.