While reading Andrew Wall’s book, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, I found something particularly interesting in light of the blog’s theme of theology for pilgrims. Christianity presents two different perspectives on how we are to relate to the world. The first is a pilgrim perspective. We are, Peter tells us, aliens and strangers. According to Paul, while we are in the body we are away from the Lord, but to be with the Lord is our true home. The pilgrim perspective tells us to remain somewhat detached from the world, to set our minds on the things above, and concentrate on the world to come. The second perspective is as a child of the king of the world. The Bible speaks of this world as our Father’s world. He is the creator. In Him we live and move and have our beings. This world declares the glory of God, it sings his praises. There is not, as Kyper says, a part in the universe over which God does not scream “Mine.’ This perspective allows Paul to become all things to all people so he might save some. It calls us to engage deeply in the world. We must invest in evangelism, but also the arts, science, and culture. Wherever we go, we are on God’s turf, so whatever we encounter we can use for God’s glory.
How do we relate these two perspective? Few would propose that they are contradictory. More often though we relate them in a balancing act. Have one foot in the world, one foot in heaven, and you’ll be balanced. But then we live somewhat bifurcated lives. Sometimes we live like this world is our hope and sometimes we don’t. I propose, instead, that we need to understand how these two ideas—that (1) we are pilgrims and (2) live in the land of our father—actually strengthen each other. As pilgrims we spend much time thinking of our true home, where God is. We think of our identity in Christ. And what does that do? It puts us in contact with Christ’s heart, Christ’s desires, His motives. Which are? To go into the world, to become like His people so that he can save them, to rescue the lost. But what happens when we go into the world? We see how everything can be used for His glory, but we also see that people don’t want to use it that way. We are persecuted. What does that do? That reminds us that we are pilgrims. And the process starts all over again.