Longing for a Better Country
I read these words on delayed promises for suffering, faithful saints this week from Hebrews 11:
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
“By faith,” each acting in obedience to what God had commanded, worshiping and moving to crazy places and doing crazy things. And each living in faith but not yet receiving the promises, living in longing.
I feel so disconnected from this chapter of the history of My People, the God-followers who have gone before me. If the chapter were extended to include more believers, even us, what would it say? “By faith, Aubry…” Would it end in my obedience, giving glory to God?
In our churches, in many of us, I see anticipation but not a longing for a better country. We like where we are, and we fight to make it more cozy. Instead of entering the world and praying “Your Kingdom come here,” we huddle in our Christian subculture with its knock-off brands of the world’s products. We don’t want to be aliens and foreigners. We drive our flags into the ground, claiming our territory, our rights, our dreams. We turn inward, throwing ourselves into a tizzy of fellowships and Bible studies and small groups and church events, unaware that we’ve missed what the Mission of God and the work of the Church are.
We are travelers on this faith-road to Glory, to a Promised City, but is the road making us long for that destination? Are we salty enough to create the thirst in others for that Country? Or have we stopped somewhere along the way, content in our lesser country and enticing others to merely camp with us in “fellowship?” Is this what becoming a Christian is about? Coming to church at the right times and being friends with the right people, and pushing on in the American Dream but as a nicer person?
I see in Hebrews 11 a subtext of the risk in faith. By faith, Abraham risked his family’s lives setting out to an unknown place without his entire clan. By faith he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac if that’s what God asked. By faith Rahab committed treason to obey Israel’s God and hid the spies. By faith Moses abandoned a posh palace life to be mistreated and disgraced, and in faith, led a disobedient people just short of the Promised Land. By faith, they obeyed the commands of God to participate in the Great Rescue that God was orchestrating.
A country without religious persecution is an amazing blessing. But have we become so obsessed with the blessing that we fear losing it? Have we become so amorous of safety that we refuse to step into less safe places to bring the Hope of the Better City there — when these are clearly the places that need the Gospel the most?
Church, let’s end the camp-out in this lesser city.
Let’s enter the homes of the alcoholics and speak hope there. Let’s play with the children who face abuse and grow up too fast and show the love of a Perfect Father. Let us welcome the immigrants and help them learn to function in their new country while sharing about our own homesickness for the Coming Country. Let’s go to the Last Places, the places where the Gospel is not yet flourishing and where governments actively try to push against the Gates of Heaven closing in on their ranks (but they will not prevail forever!) Let’s come together and pray fervently for the modern-day Saul’s, the terrorists and the worst persecutors, that Jesus would blind them with visions and raise up powerful disciples from among them. Let us do the hard, dirty work of making disciples of every nation where we are and where we’re going.
By faith, let’s stop settling for a larger home and a nicer car and early retirement. By faith, let’s knock off the “worship wars” and division among denominations over this or that doctrine. By faith, let us use our abundant American resources for the sake of the Gospel and for those who have yet to see Jesus imitated by Christians. By faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, let us take risks that seem crazy to this world as we seek a better Kingdom. By faith, let’s learn the word”sacrifice” in our budgets and our hobbies and our comfort so that we might long for the Better Country as we cling less tightly to this one. By faith, let us push off this bushel and go into the world with the Light of Christ.
How can the Church foster a longing for a Better Country? What can YOU do?
Tell me stories. I want to hear of ways you are seeing this longing in people you know, in churches here or abroad.