I’ve come to realize is that no matter where we are, traveling around some foreign country, or going three hours in any direction, we are all guests. Even my childhood home where I spent the first 18 years of my life and came “home” on breaks from college, even now when I return their to see my folks, I am a guest. We are all guests.
We are told that Jesus had no where to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). And we are told that we are strangers in a strange land. We are guests here. As followers of Jesus, we are guests here.
We live here in this world, some of us for only a few hours (like the painful few hours of life for my friend’s first born child) and others of us for 90+ years. It doesn’t matter for how long, really, we are still guests. As followers of Jesus that’s who we are. We are not residents, we are not citizens, we are guests.
No offense to my compatriots, but Americans tend to be very loud. Especially in foreign settings, Americans can tend to be quite loud. Recently, our family, was on vacation a short flight from the country we currently live in. There were other groups of foreigners in the same hostel, but we were all very quiet and soft spoken. A few days in, a group of about eight or so Americans came. And, as usual, they were quite loud. So much so, that our poor server in the dining area couldn’t hear our order over the “normal conversation” of the slightly larger group. I’m not here to pick on my home country at all. Only to use this as a brief example.
In all the countries I’ve been in and the many tourists I’ve been around, no matter what country their passport says, they have come to relax, take in the sites and enjoy just being there. Far fewer are people who go to a foreign country (especially on vacation) and try to learn a bit about the host culture, history, try their food, etc. Tourists don’t vacation with a learning mindset.
Life in Transit
As loud tourists come to a place for a visit, they usually aren’t aware of how loud they are being or even how that impacts everyone around them, including the host culture. I’ve overheard many complaints tourists may have of the food, culture and customs of the country they are visiting, a culture in which they are a guest.
They have the expectation that the host culture will be just like their home. But it won’t be. Never. Ever. It will never be their home. Why? Because it’s not…they are guests. As followers of Jesus, we are guests here. This world is not our home. In Philippians 3:20, Peter calls us citizens of heaven. In John 17, Jesus Himself states that we are not of this world just as He wasn’t. In Hebrews 11, those who have died before us are called exiles of this world. We are guests in this host world.
Our entirety of time on this planet is moving from one point in life to another, from one point of being in sin, coming to know Christ, and living out the rest of those days trying to better understand Him and us in His story. Moving from one point to another. That is life in transit. Living in transit gives a much different outlook and perspective to life here on earth. We are guests trying to figure out how to operate in this place when we don’t understand it, it is counter in almost every way to how God shows us to live our lives. We are guests in a place that operates counter to how God shows us to live our lives. Click To Tweet
Choosing to Learn
As guests we can either be loud, almost annoyingly so, or we can try to learn from the culture we live in (and the several thousand micro cultures that make up the world culture) and find the sacred things with the secular world.
Several years ago, I was given the honor to lead two seminars at our denominations triennial youth conference. One of those seminars was entitled “Unearthing the Sacred in the Secular.” It was developed by other youth leaders, and I was allowed to borrow the material for the seminar. It took a look at lyrics, music videos, movies and the like from the secular world.
To be honest, it was my first time actually thinking about Romans 1-that God has truths about Himself revealed in the secular world. Perhaps more impacting was that it was the first time I ever, ever considered the thought that there are sacred things revealed in the secular world by people who are searching for the truth. Never before did I put two and two together. As people are struggling or searching for truth and worth, they will begin to see the truths about God that Paul talks about in Romans. They will begin to understand these sacred things and talk about them, consider them, ponder them. We can either be loud, almost annoyingly so, or we can try to learn from the culture we live in. Click To Tweet
Thinking Like a Guest
I was blown away. When I got the material I read through it, set it down and just sat there staring at it. I was in shock that I had been a youth pastor, graduated after four years at a Christian college and had never once heard this, or at least never remembered hearing about this idea. I was hungry to search and see. It began changing my theology and perspective. Looking at things differently and looking at them from outside the Christian bubble I lived in as best I could. I was not a citizen of this world, I was a guest, allowed to live here barring trials allowed to happen to me from the king of this world.
The mentality that I was guest meant so many new and different things: take care of what’s been entrusted to me here-creating in me an eco-theology; treat the culture with respect and learn from the people of this world and try to find points of identifying with them-redefining my missiology; see where the church intersects with the secular world in different contexts, cultures, classes and races-redefining my ecclesiology; and frankly many other things related to my understanding of God. Thinking like a guest changed my theology, missiology and ecclesiology. Click To Tweet
This journey or learning, changing and growing is ever moving inside me, but it started with this seminar. It was the moment I realized early on in my ministry that I didn’t know everything. I led the seminar, and after each session there usually was a line of youth pastors, youth leaders and the occasional student asking me everything from if I was a true believer in Jesus to condemning me for leading these young impressionable students astray. It wasn’t all bad, there were a few that came up and thanked me for putting words to what they had already been wrestling with.
Looking at the world from the viewpoint of a guest, an outsider, a viewpoint to which you are not from these parts, you begin to see things differently. But there’s also the understanding that this is not your final destination. This is not your final stop. This is not the summation of everything. That is an encouraging perspective, but it can also be taken too far to an extreme that can be detrimental to everyone around you. So we look to Jesus as our guide, and live as guests who are constantly learning to embrace everyone around us with grace, truth and love.