There is a homelessness that is distinctly Christian. Because a Christian is no longer of this world, even though he or she remains in the world (John 17:14–15).
Most of us understand this abstractly. We know that Jesus chose us out of this world (John 15:19) and that Hebrews calls us to live as “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
But the concrete experience of never quite fitting is hard to get used to. No matter where we are, no matter what we do, we’re always foreigners and feel somewhat out of place.
Until we really come to grips with this reality, we will repeatedly feel disoriented and disappointed. This results in plenty of “grumbling and disputing” (Philippians 2:14) until we are willing to embrace that
Our fallen, failing bodies are not our home. Someday they will be resurrected in perfection (1 Corinthians 15:42–44), and we’ll be at home in them. But right now they betray us by sin dwelling in our members (Romans 7:23) and being subject to all manner of the futility of aging, disease, and disability (Romans 8:20).
Our home is not our home. No idyllic location or home improvement project will ever make our homes the heaven we seek.
Our marriages are not our home. Marriage is a momentary parable of the permanence of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). But the best earthly marriages are defective parables and most marriages are not the best. And all these earthly parables end in “till death do we part.”
Our children are not our home. Parents quickly discover childrearing to be the most difficult job in the world, all aimed at one thing: preparing our children to leave home.
Our friendships are not our home. The best friendships go through difficult, strained seasons and most friendships only last for brief seasons, and many end painfully.
Our local churches are not our home. It is true that Christians are “no longer strangers and aliens, but . . . fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). However, the New Testament Gospels and Epistles make it clear that disunity in local churches is a frequent problem (1 Corinthians 1:10). Like our individual bodies, the Church will one day be a perfect, glorified Body of Christ (Romans 12:5, Ephesians 5:27). But right now sin, brokenness, failures, weaknesses, partisanship, doctrinal drift, sharp disagreements (Acts 15:39), and lukewarmness toward Christ all remind us that our local church is not yet our home.
Our denominations are not our home. Very few find their family of churches a perfect fit for them. There always seems to be some doctrinal, polity, leadership, strategic, or organizational issue(s) that we find aggravating.
Our coalitions and movements are not our home. When the Holy Spirit moves in fresh ways in the church, new coalitions and movements form to advance a Spirit-initiated mission. But it doesn’t take long before the fissures of leadership frustrations, misunderstandings, selfish ambition, doctrinal differences, strategic disagreements, and criticisms remind us that we aren’t home.
Our vocations are not our home. We often spend the first half of our lives preparing for our life’s work, and then spend the second half of our lives trying to figure out why our life’s work is not working out the way we hoped, or why it went so wrong, or why we weren’t more effective, or why it was so hard.
Our ministries are not our home. Jesus appoints us for seasons of our lives to certain responsibilities (John 3:27), and when he determines that those seasons are over he dis-appoints us. If we were too at home in those appointments, we’re left disappointed.
You Desire a Better Country
The reality we must embrace is that, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are living in a land of promise as in a foreign land (Hebrews 11:11; 2 Peter 3:13). And like those patriarchs, but in a new-covenant sense, most of us — probably all of us — will die in faith, not having received the things promised (Hebrews 11:13). And we will have no regrets because what we are really looking for is not really here.
We are “seeking a homeland”; we desire “a better country” (Hebrews 11:14–16). We are strangers and exiles on earth; “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). C.S. Lewis put it beautifully:
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. (Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 10, “Hope”)
The reason “home” always eludes you now is that you were made for another world. No worldly experience can satisfy your inconsolable longing. No relationship, no successful achievement, no possession, no amount of public approval will ever satisfy you here. The best these can do is give you a brief copy and shadowy glimpse of your true homeland. The best they can do is make you homesick for the better country where you belong, yet have never seen.
As a Christian, your sense of homelessness and homesickness is normal. If you’ve been fighting it, stop!
Embracing your homelessness as a disciple is to embrace freedom. If you don’t burden your worldly experiences with the expectations of making them your home, their disappointments won’t be so heavy, and you’ll be able to lay aside the weight of cynicism.
The really good news is that you are a stranger and exile. The more you realize this, the more it allows you to travel light. It’s the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that weigh you down and choke your faith (Matthew 13:22). But remembering that you don’t have to make your home here will lighten your load and open your spiritual airways.
Don’t worry; home is up ahead. Jesus has gone ahead of you to prepare a home for you (John 14:2). And he’s made this amazing and freeing promise to you if you’re willing to live “homeless”:
Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
Don’t waste precious time and resources trying to make earth your home. Instead, travel as light in your expectations and your possessions (material or emotional) as possible. And seek to take as many people as you can with you to your true homeland.