Pilgrims and Strangers

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11,12).
I am packing again. This is my last night in Khulna, Bangladesh, for this trip, and I am getting ready to begin a month of almost constant travel. I will be in three countries and well over a dozen cities, towns, and villages over the next four-plus weeks. After that I will start back for the U.S.A.
Over the past fifteen years this has increasingly become the nature of my life. Sometimes I think the phrases more relevant to me are “culture shock” and “jet lag.” My wife accuses me of stopping off at home only to get my laundry done. I have come to know the status “sojourner and pilgrim” rather up close and personal.
But that is actually true of all Christians. We are wanderers in a strange land that is not our home, here just for a short time and always traveling. Peter makes a particularly appropriate application of this concept. Travelers do not have the same status or privilege as residents, nor do they have the same priorities or “agendas.” What is appropriate behavior for a citizen may be very inappropriate for a visitor. Areas with large tourist appeal demonstrate this dualism. There are the sections where the strangers go and do their recreation and sight-seeing. Then there are the neighborhoods and shops which are intended for the permanent residents. Often tourists are not only not encouraged to visit these areas, they are actively discouraged.
Peter compares Christians to tourists, and unbelievers to permanent residents. To them, sin (the indulgence of fleshly lusts) is natural and to be expected. It is the province of the worldly man, whose goals and desires are focused entirely on the physical creation. It has no appeal, however, to the spiritual traveler who is just “passing through.” It does not help him to obtain his goals. It does not satisfy his desires. He has no connection with sin or sinful lust. He does not belong in that territory.
The traveler, however, often brings outside news, attitudes, and progress to the places he visits. The homebound citizen is exposed, through him, to different goals and desires. So Christians bring a new and radical way of life to those bound to the ways of this world. By observing our faith and the joy, peace, and righteousness which we possess, God will be glorified among them. That is, they may come to share faith, and joy, and righteousness. Then they too become strangers in their old country, but citizens and residents of ours.

Christians are wanderers in a strange land that is not home, here just for a short time and always traveling.

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