When I was a young seminary student, I had to read an extensive commentary by a Dutch theologian. I had never studied Dutch writing before, and I really struggled to understand the syntax.
I asked an older student for help, and he directed me to an annotated outline of another theologian who had dissected the work of my Dutch theologian. But when I picked up this outline, I discovered it was longer and more complex than the original work I was studying!
Keeping It Simple
During my years of academic study and pastoral ministry, I’ve found that it’s natural for us to overcomplicate the stunningly simple faith to which we’ve been called. Is theology and doctrine important? Of course it is—I would never minimize its value—but I think we’ve interpreted the Christian life as more complex than the Bible describes.
Today, I want to go back to the basics. I’m not suggesting that we do anything radical, like trash all our commentaries, but I just want to read Scripture verse by verse and see what it says about the way we’re supposed to live.
The text that I love to go back to again and again is 1 Peter 2:11-12.
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (ESV)
How are Christians supposed to live? There are three key attributes to what I call “The Christian Job Description.”
1. Exist as Aliens
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…”
A sojourner is one on a journey or pilgrimage, moving toward a final destination and temporarily pausing at a location. An exile is a person residing in a location that’s not his or her original and desired homeland. That’s me and you. This earth is not where we, as Christians, should call home. Eternity is our home. Forever is coming.
But here’s the problem: You and I have grown too comfortable in our temporary home. We like the materialism and pleasure-orientation of Western culture. We measure success by the square footage of our house, the number of options on our luxury vehicle, the size of our retirement package, the quality of our cuisine and the letters after our name.
If we want to live like true, biblical Christians, we’ll live like aliens. That doesn’t mean we’ll be anti-social and live in monasteries, but we’ll exist with a different set of values. We’ll think long-term—10,000 years into eternity long term. Our good days will be good days because the Kingdom of God is advancing, not because we’re experiencing a little more temporary pleasure than yesterday.
Are you living like an alien? Do you wake up every morning and long for Forever? Or have you grown too comfortable in this temporary sojourn?