Saturday, November 05, 2005

Newsletter: Pilgrims and Pioneers

The great Puritan, John Bunyan, titled his book about Christian discipleship, "Pilgrims Progress." Sadly, we don’t usually associate pilgrimage and the Christian life. In fact, the only time our thoughts settle on pilgrims at all is around the end of November. Next to the cans of pumpkin and cranberry sauce are cardboard cut-outs of smiling, black and white clad pilgrims carrying blunderbusses. They remain a cultural memory, more shadow than substance.

Still Bunyan knew his Bible, and his words were chosen carefully. Paul reminds the Philippians that "our commonwealth is in heaven" (3:20). Peter calls the church, "exiles" or "sojourners" (1 Peter 1:1). The Christian life is journey, and we must realize that ultimately this fallen world is not our home. We are pilgrims through this land.

Those words are a comfort. How many times are we told, "The world ain’t fair"? Acknowledging the truth of the comment, we still wish that it was. We don’t want to submit to the injustice and the inequities of the world. Knowing that we are mere pilgrims helps keep us sane. No wonder we act different. No wonder we love our enemies. No wonder we forgive one another. We don’t really belong here.

That being said, some have taken a comfort and made it a hiding place. As citizens of God’s kingdom who reside in the kingdom of the world, we understand that folks don’t understand us. We recognize that ultimately God will set things right. We long for the sweet-by-and-by. Our danger lies in ignoring the world around us. As someone once complained, "Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good." That is a misunderstanding of the faith we profess.

Our longing for home drives our desire for mercy here. We live in a heavenly colony–an outpost for God on a wild frontier. Not only are we pilgrims, but we are also pioneers. We live and love differently than the world, witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are called to be peacemakers in a world without peace, to thirst for righteousness in a world which has a price for everything. We make an impact, following the teachings of our Lord in a world which remains hostile to it.