Homeward Bound: But Where Are We Headed?
– by James Munk
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “home” – the place for which we long, and believe that if we reach it, we’ll finally be satisfied – it is our heart’s destination. This desire for home seems to be programmed into us – into all mankind. It is therefore unsurprising that man has given himself many places to which he can attach the title of “home”.
For some, it is the glassy, white-clad apartment in the sky – a feat of modern architecture, an understated (but unmistakable) tribute to one’s very good tastes. Others look for the oversized country manor atop 40 acres: with a swimming pool, four-car garage, and a go-kart track – for the kids, naturally. For others still, it may not even be a change to their house; rather, a change to their neighbor’s – if the neighbors would just keep the noise down, and the property value up, then, finally, that would be home.
Some instead look for home in an emotional or social state that promises contentment. After all, there are more solutions than brick-and-mortar ones: maybe financial security, safety, fame or recognition in one’s field.
Did you find your dream home in that list? I found mine. And we fool ourselves if we think we’ve never felt our heart wrap around one of these homes – and found our plans and pocket books attempting to posses it.
But often paired with this longing is a sense that in the end, these things will disappoint us. For myself, I find it hard to believe that if I just got into one of the smaller lofts in a downtown high-rise, I would cease to be interested in the master suite at the top. These “homes” aggravate our appetites but do not satisfy our deeper longings. Our senses tell us something’s in the oven, but we know we’re not invited to dinner. We are faced with a longing for home and with the unhappy knowledge that it cannot be found here.
What are we to do? CS Lewis has excellent insight:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Our home is not here, and John 14:2 gives us some insight as to its location: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” We are invited to call the house of the Lord, “home” – to be with him, and live with him forever.
The command of detachment
This invitation is extraordinary, and its glory is outside of our comprehension. However, it brings with it a challenge while we still live in this world. Our current life and world are not our final destination, and like the child who has plopped down on the sofa, we hear our father say, “Don’t get too comfortable”:a simple way of saying, don’t order your life in a way that makes it harder for you to leave this place. The Bible presents this challenge, this call to detachment, in a somewhat starker form:
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
These are not easy words to hear. I like the world. I even like a few of the things in the world! But the Lord seems serious that I not become too attached. And when considering the Lord’s commands from an eternal perspective, this makes a lot of sense. Further, anything but a certain detachment from the world is foolishness! “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)?But this call to detachment from the world is not hardship for hardship’s sake – a sort of spiritual boot camp. It is the loving direction from a father as he helps his sons and daughters navigate the stock markets of eternity.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
Consider the Titanic – when the ship was going down, the class of one’s cabin was trivial; a spot on the lifeboat was not. The things of this world are passing away, and our home is not here; and so the Lord says, “Don’t get too comfortable.”
The challenge of engagement
This command for detachment from the world comes with a somewhat paradoxical call to vigorous engagement. This follows from a very simple toggle between home and work. If our home is not here – if our rest is not here – work, engagement, is the somewhat obvious alternative.
And this seems to be the way the Bible talks about the identity of the heaven-bound on earth: “laborers” in the field from Luke 10:2, “servants” in the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19, and perhaps most famously, the call of the apostles to become “fishers” of men.
I am unfamiliar with the parable that begins, “The kingdom of God is like a man in his armchair.” While we wait for our eternal home – our eternal rest – we are to be working for our Lord.
The challenge of love
But beyond labor, engagement has a second, and more challenging, component: love. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
Jesus loved Jerusalem, but not in the “I Heart NY” sense of the word. One can suppose that Jesus’ attraction to Jerusalem was not on account of all its wonderful cultural amenities – its cafés, historic shopping centers, or exotic restaurants. His love was not contingent on “liking”: it was a love based on commitment, and a desire for the people – his people – to come to a good place. His was a love for the mission field, out of love for the mission. Not necessarily the field: in some ways, despite it.
This love challenges me – do I love my city, my temporary home, with the same fervor Jesus loved Jerusalem? Doubtful – and that gap exists for many reasons. But I know of at least one way to narrow it. When we cease to look for a place to be our home, we are freer to love a place because it is where the Lord has asked us to be. We become free to labor out of love for those around us and out of love for the Lord – not necessarily because we like where they happen to be, or where the Lord has put us.
Our eternal home
In all this “our home is not here” talk, there can be a tendency to borrow an approach that is a hybrid of two different systems of belief: Hindu indifference to the thing of this world mated with a Wall Street work- alcoholism. But these miss that our approach to this world is grounded in the hope of the one to come. Far from a stoic indifference to the world or a grueling approach to labor, our lives should be marked by a joyful abandonment and a contagious zeal for the work the Lord has giving us. If we need convincing, consider what’s coming:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come (Isaiah 60:5).
These passages describe our true home – our final destination: a promise of wealth, comfort, eternal life, and a new order. And this promise is the beginning, not the end. If we consider our afterlife simply in terms of wealth, satisfaction or comfort that can be understood here and now, we’ve stopped short of the best part. Even if we hope our heavenly reward to be all the riches of the earth, we’ve set our sights much too low.
Our inheritance is the Lord, himself: “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance” (Psalm 16:5-6). We are invited to the House of the Lord; and more, invited forever to be with him. Our home is not here – and praise the Lord – we’re invited to a far better one.