One of our favorite hymns is entitled, This World Is Not My Home. It is an uplifting song that makes our hearts soar as we sing its words. The theme of the song is the joyous anticipation we have of the time when we will enter the heavenly city to live with our God and Father for eternity. That theme is summarized in the line that precedes the chorus: “And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
As we sing this song, we are not expressing displeasure with the place God created for us to live. The world that He created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It was, in fact, perfectly prepared for humans to inhabit, but it was never intended to be our final destination. God’s plan from before the beginning of the world was to redeem a people for Himself to live with Him in heaven. How people live while upon the earth determines who among them will receive this great reward.
Those who are Christians should understand this better than any others. When we obey the gospel by being baptized into Christ, we commit ourselves to walk through the small gate that opens onto the narrow way that leads to life (Mt. 7:14). We have been purchased by the cleansing blood of Christ to be His slaves, and we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Our citizenship is no longer upon the earth, but is instead in heaven, where our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Phil. 3:20; Rev. 20:11-15).
Nevertheless, we are residents of the earth and must live on it and within its many constraints until our time here is done. This reality often poses challenges for us, as it has for Christians since the church began. In the first century some in the city of Thessalonica were so anxious for the Lord to return, and so ready to be freed from the bounds of earth, that they stopped taking care of their physical responsibilities. In 2 Th. 3:6-13 Paul chastised them for what he called their unruly and undisciplined behavior. The point then, and now, is that we must take care of all our physical responsibilities on earth, even as we anticipate going home to be with the Lord.
Another of the challenges that we face as residents of the earth is the presence of suffering and pain. Too many times our lives are marked by sickness, disease, and death. Too often we suffer the pain of the actions of sinful people around us. Nearly every day we may wonder why God allows our hearts to be broken by the things that happen in life.
There are at least two reasons for these things. One is the fact that sin exists on the earth. From the time of Adam and Eve we have been afflicted by its presence, either because of our own sinful conduct, or because of the sins of others. Sickness, disease, natural disasters, and man-made mayhem of all kinds are the results of sin being present in the world. God is not responsible for these things, and He will hold the guilty accountable at judgment (Ex. 34:7).
The second reason for these things is to constantly remind us that we must not fall in love with this world. In 1 Jn. 2:15-17 John tells us that all that is in the world (that is, the sinful things) is not from the Father, and if we love the world, the Father is not in us. John also said that all that is in the world is passing away. What he means by this is that it will one day be destroyed at God’s command (2 Pet. 3:10-13). Only those who have done the will of God will live forever.
We are going to suffer while we are here on the earth, but that suffering will not compare to the glory awaiting us in heaven (Rom. 8:18). Christians know this because this world is not our home.