“This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?”
As I was growing up, and even into my college years, this old church song helped me make sense of my faith and adoption. It is a tune that has shown up over time in various forms, but I think it was penned by Jim Reeves and it is called, “This World Is Not My Home.”
Growing up in the church, I was given a us versus them mentality. The world had the majority power, but the church had the moral high ground (and oh yeah, God too!). My faith made it so I did not fit within the structure and economy of the kingdom of Earth, because I was a citizen of the Kingdom of God. My faith called me to live a life of love, not hate. To forgive, not hold grudges. To be generous, not be stingy (still working on this one). The constant picture I envisaged was a salmon swimming up steam against the current. This was the dominate metaphor of my faith.
Having grown up knowing I was adopted was not hard. Life was good. I was happy and fortunate to be loved by my parents. But in the back of my head there was a feeling I did not fit. In my family there no family resemblances, we all looked different. There is no physical bond we all hold in common. The realization that no one in my family shared any blood was a stark and jarring thought. Not only was I displaced in the world because of my faith, but I was displaced in my own identity. Who was I? Where did I come from? Where was my blood pumping through another’s heart?
Reeves’ song gave me hope that some day I would fit in. It helped me make sense of the angst in my soul that kept informing me I was “not from around here.” It told me that some day I would be with a people that were bonded not by genetics, but belief. It was not about the blood in our veins, but the blood of Jesus that made us family, the children of God. Just because I did not feel at home in this world did not mean I did not have a home. There was a place where I fit in and where I was part of the majority and the moral. It spoke of a home country, among my people and where I was no longer an outsider or an exile in a foreign country.
This song is the rally cry of the ectopic saints tolerating the lousy living conditions of their temporary accommodations until Jesus comes to save them and takes them to home to heaven.
This was reenforced as I grew up in a conservative expression of Christianity that subtly (and at times overtly) embraced the idea that since the world was not our home (Reeves), and since we were handed dominion over all Earth (Genesis 1:28), and that it was going to be destroyed anyway (Revelation 20:11), it was a single use product destined for the garbage heap when the fire of God’s judgment reigned down form Heaven.
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is wrong, unbiblical and flawed. This world is our home, the obstacle is this is not our culture.
What is the difference?
When we start to mistake what God has created with what we have created, we find ourselves in trouble. God created the world; the moon, grass and toads and it all was good, nay VERY good. Humanity created culture. Culture is what we collective have made of the world around us.
God created beauty, we created art.
God created humanity, we created race and ethnicity.
God created the intellect, we created education.
God created curiosity, we created science, explorations and trial and error.
God created joy, we created bacon.
Sometimes what we have created out of God’s transcendent materials has not honored the love, power and purpose he instilled in his creation. This is where the train comes off the tracks.
God created sex, we created porn, trafficking and rape.
God created movement, we created the run-away, accidents and good-byes.
God created relationships, we create divorce, enemies and the estranged.
Those who are Christ followers run into the different values, purposes and meanings of culture everyday. This week at work I heard one co-worker ask another, “So, you still sleeping with a lot of women?” “Oh yeah,” came the enthusiastic response. “I have this girl who…” blah, blah, blah. “And there is this older women I see once and a while, but she has a boy friend, so..” blah, blah, blah. This is only one example I could give. Culture’s view of intimacy, relationships and sex are diametrically opposed to what Christ calls me towards. Music, movies and books, the Christian gets crosswise with our culture in all of these, not to mention money, meaning and security (plus 10,000 others).
However, I think the way forward is not to seek escape from this world by sequestering ourselves in the Christian bubble. Or by denying the reality of what our culture has become thinking everything will be better out there some where beyond the blue. But rather to create new culture. Yes, it is easier to live in a disposable culture than it is to build a new one. Its quicker and cleaner to hit the eject button on the aspect of culture we don’t like instead of redeeming it. But the most loving, faithful and responsible thing we can do as the children of God in the world is to create new culture that makes all the falsehoods of the prevailing mutated culture untrue, feeble and transparent.
This is what God expected of the Hebrews in their exile.
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,
and pray to the Lord on its behalf;
for in its welfare you will have welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
We are to pray for Heaven on Earth.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
And this was the prayer of Jesus for his followers in his High Priestly Prayer of John 17.
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world,
but to keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15
(Andy Crouch has written a whole book called, “Culture Making” and has a website dedicated too this idea at: http://www.culture-making.com, so I will not labor to reproduce what he has so masterfully created.)