10 Nov 2020

Recently, as a family, we watched the film “Pilgrim’s progress” by John Bunyan. It reinforces my convictions on how we, as Christians, are called to live as pilgrims here on earth.

I recall Abraham who was looking for the city whose architect and builder is God. Here was a man who never lived in a city with foundations and walls, but in tents. Here was a man whose accommodations showed his faith (Heb. 11:9-10). The testimony of Hebrews 11:13-14 is significant:
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but havins seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus made it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”

We as Christians are in a similar position as the patriarchs. It is a better position (Heb. 11:40) because Christ has come and provided redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We have seen the time of fulfilment begin. But we are aliens and pilgrims., for we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven” while we await “the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time: (1 Peter:4-5). Our position is more like Abraham and Isaac in the desert than it is like Israel in the land. We are citizens of a kingdom that has not yet been revealed in its fullness.

C.S. Lewis once observed:

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither”.

What is the principle for us as Christians today? Use the things of this world, but do not get entangled in them, because “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). We may not be limited to living in tents, but our lifestyle and values should reflect our faith.

Sometimes, we wonder why believers ‘cling’ so tightly to the things of this world and the ‘life’ on this earth. The Apostle Paul wrote that for him, ‘to live is Christ, to die is gain’. He also expressed that ‘death has lost its sting’. We, of all people, should know that death is not the end but a ‘new beginning’, a new wondrous hope awaiting us. Yet, why do we struggle so hard to remain in this world and refuse to forsake the ‘things of this world’ when God deems it time for us to depart. During this pandemic, many are mentally and emotionally stressed. For Christians, it is a valuable time for us to evaluate our values and convictions: are we truly living as aliens and pilgrims on this earth. J.I. Packer reminded us that there are ‘two worlds’ and ‘two lives’ and the believers who are wise should always remember that and live out their lives with this perspective and spirit.