Just a PASSING Through…
We have a song that goes like this:
This world is not my home
I’m just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore.
This song is a good reminder of the lesson found in 1st Peter chapter two.
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” (1Pet 2:11)
The line in the song that says “just a-passing through” is the theme of this article. What does it look like to be strangers and pilgrims?
It means that we’re just a-PASSING through this life headed for our heavenly home.
Getting bogged down with the affairs of this life is very easy to do, and something all of us struggle to overcome. The parable of the Sower warns of this problem; “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).
Going on a vacation or living temporarily in another place for work might be a modern-day illustration to teach the same lesson.
One word Peter uses to describe our situation is as PILGRIMS. Strong’s defines this as “an alien alongside, i.e. a resident foreigner.” This same word is used to describe the life of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11:4-12. A resident foreigner is one who is living in a temporary place, but doesn’t put down any roots.
Someone that is passing through to their true home will “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2). Most of us when we travel feel out of place among the locals, especially if they speak a different language and they have a different culture. While we may enjoy much of the experiences, we will long for our own home, our own bed, and our own people. We may be welcomed, but we don’t feel at home.
Peter uses another word to describe our condition in this life; living as STRANGERS. The word for “stranger” is defined as a sojourner (one having a home nearby). A sojourner is only staying for a little time, PASSING through. The locals recognize us as strangers and will often comment on that fact. When we are passing through an area, we stand out as strangers. Home is often just a few hours away, it’s nearby through the wonders of modern-day travel. Our heavenly home is closer.
We stand out because we are different in our speech, manners, and confusion about the area. Many times, we’re separated from the residents because many of the tourists gather at tourist sites, and eat at touristy locals. For our purposes, we are SET APART (sanctified) from the world. While we look like the locals, we are not to be conformed to the world. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom 12:2). Peter describes this separation, “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (1Peter 4:4).
Sometimes we’re passing through but on an extended stay. We may even rent houses, buy groceries, and work for a longer period of time. It may appear that we’ve moved in, but we’re still INDEPENDENT from the world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1John 2:15; cf. Jas 4:4). Our life as Christians ought to resemble this mindset. All too often we let the concerns for this life supersede our concern for going to heaven. We focus on many worldly CAUSES, Cures for disease, Alleviating pains, Undoing mistakes of our past, Shaping our government, Escaping financial woes, or making the world a Safer place. These are important things, but the solving of them won’t take us to heaven.
If we were to travel to another country, we would be a people from one NATION passing through another NATION. Peter tells us, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Peter 2:9). This also speaks to our purpose. While traveling our goal is to tour the sites, and eat different foods. For the Christian, our pilgrimage is for the purpose of shining the Light and singing His praises.
None of us give up our citizenship when traveling to a foreign land, neither should we give up our citizenship in heaven while living here. Paul wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20 ASV).
Finally, when we travel, we have no intention of staying permanently, and we’ll let everyone know. We live in temporary dwellings, we don’t lay down roots, we may even tell the residents about our home. This same description is used of the heroes of faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb 11:13-16).
Like them, we are GOING to a City (another song we sing #199 HfW) if that is what we want to do. The lesson from Peter is to remember that, since the introduction of sin, this world holds no hope for us. It is a world of pain, persecution, and prejudice.
I look around at all the trouble in this life and long for the next. I just want to go to heaven. I hope you do as well.
Spencer is an evangelist for the church of Christ at Franklin and Juniper in Borger Texas.