I have often sung a song with the line, “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” or another one, “here we are but straying pilgrims.” Both of these songs embody an ideal that it is sometimes hard for us to remember and grasp. Scripturally we can look at verses such as John 17:16, where Jesus says of his disciples, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Yet, here in this world, it can be easy to forget where we are bound and what we are meant to be.
In this world, we can be surrounded by luxury or poverty, peace or strife, success or failure, happiness or sadness. Each of these things brings color to our world that can make us comfortable sitting on a couch or give us an itch that we just can’t scratch. All of them can have the effect of making us feel at home in this world. I have a wife, children, a house, food to eat, and things to drink. I have possessions, employment, friends, and family. I own toys, computers, hats, games, and so many other things. All of this is mine. Is it any wonder that Jesus said that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”? (Mark 10:25). But even here and now, I am not considered to be rich (just ask the IRS). Yet each of these things can be a hurdle in the way as I race towards my true goal.
I have been on many trips in my lifetime. Each time that I go someplace, I have to pack. One of the most important aspects of this is that I have to boil things down to the essentials. I need to know how long I’ll be gone and what things I’m going to need once I get there. If I’m staying in a hotel, I take one set of things, which may include a computer. If I’m going camping, I won’t take the computer, but I may take firewood. If I’m staying with a friend, I may bring something for that friend. So, now I have to consider: I’m a traveller on my way to heaven; I am not of this world, so what is truly essential to me, until I get home.
The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs buried many things with them when they died. They thought that they could have their silver and gold, horses and dogs, even wives with them when they died. They thought that they could take it all with them. Yet, several thousand years later, and all of those things are still there, sitting in their tombs. The things themselves are not as important as we sometimes like to think they are. Instead we need focus on things that are unseen. “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). If we look around, everything that we can see will be consumed by fire (2 Peter 3:10), that includes all the houses, the lands, even the people. We cannot be distracted by these things and so trip on the hurdles that have been placed in our way, usually by ourselves.
We are warned by Jesus that we must love him more than our families (Matthew 10:37), and that we must lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not here on this earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Even the greatest command comes into play here: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might "(Deuteronomy 6:4). Everything we have, and everything we are need to be focused on loving God. God is our number one priority. Nothing else in this world matters like he does.
Abraham knew this when he left behind home and family to go where God told him to go. And God rewarded him for it. The prophets knew this as they left their homes and went out to preach the word of the Lord. We, in this generation, need to know it as well. Jesus left heaven to save us, what have we left for him?
Knowing that none of the things of this world matters, knowing that we need to place God first in our lives, and in our minds, how do we do that? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And this is such a simple thing, or rather, it should be a simple thing.
Jesus has told us to shine our light to the world, not be angry with our brother, not look at a woman (or man) lustfully, be faithful to our spouse, say what we mean, not resist those who take advantage of us, and love our enemies (Matthew 5). And that is all in just one sitting. It can appear to be very overwhelming to us if we look at every single thing we should do to show Jesus that we love him. Remember, though, that the words of the Lord are “sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). We can be sustained by the words of the Lord, as Jesus was in the desert, and we will find rest for our souls.
Paul tells us that three things remain: faith, hope and love, “but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is the greatest, because once we arrive at home, we will no longer need to hope for what is coming; we will no longer need faith to assure us of things we hope for, but we will live in love with him who sacrificed so much to give us life, and give it more abundantly. At the end of everything, the only thing that we can take with us is love. Love for the Father, who made us. Love for Jesus, who saved us. Love for the Spirit, who guided us. Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, who share in our love of God. Love for our fellow man, who was made in the image of God.