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Homecoming: How should Christ-followers live here on earth and look forward to a heavenly home?

By Laura Vickery

It’s the University of Florida’s homecoming weekend, a time when alumni return and celebrate their alma mater and the years they spent there. It’s a weekend filled with nostalgia, school spirit, and reminders of how we will always belong to the ‘Gator Nation,’ or whatever university you attended. It’s also a time where we can reflect on what homecoming means to us as Christ-followers. 

When I first think about the word home, I feel a sense of tension. I think of Gainesville, my house here, and that feeling of coming home after a long trip and feeling settled once again. But then as a believer, I correct myself and remind myself that my true home is in heaven. After all, the Bible tells us that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. One of my favorite passages in Hebrews 11 reminds me how I am a stranger and exile on this earth and should be desiring a better country, a heavenly country (v. 13-16). 

But God has also created us and placed us here on this earth. He created a physical world with mountains, sunrises, roses, birds, and coffee beans. Furthermore, He made us physical beings with the ability to hike up those mountains, watch sunrises, smell roses, listen to birdsong, and taste a cup of good coffee.

It seems then that as Christ-followers, we can easily fall into two ditches. On one hand, we could move through our days on this earth, ignoring both the beauty and the brokenness of the world that God has placed us in. After all, it’s all only temporary, right? On the other hand, we could fixate on what we see in the world around us, ignoring or minimizing the spiritual realities while exalting the pleasures and fixating upon the evil and injustices of this world.  

So how do we as believers handle this tension? How do we live actively in this present world and yet still look forward to our future?

First, we acknowledge the realities of this world. We need to acknowledge that the all-wise, all-powerful, and all-good creator God made a beautiful world, which He himself described as ‘very good.’ (Genesis 1:31) 

However, we also need to acknowledge the evil and brokenness of this world wrought by sin and mankind’s rebellion against God (Genesis 3). We shouldn’t minimize the suffering and hurt of those around us, but should weep with those who weep. As we constantly come face to face with the brokenness, the corruption, and the evil, we can’t just bury our heads in the sand. We need to acknowledge it and cry with all of creation over this deep pain. We need to acknowledge that something is missing and that things are not the way that they were designed to be.

The gospel of John describes how Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus: 
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
And he said, “Where have you laid him?” 
They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)

But we can’t stop there because God didn’t stop there. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, didn’t stay at the tomb of Lazarus weeping. He brought him back to life. (John 11: 38-44) And that miracle, as glorious and astounding as it was, was just a taste of His greater work to come: 
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)

As Christ-followers who are still living in this sin-wracked, broken world, we’re called to follow Christ. We’re called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). That means following in His footsteps by sharing the truth of His gospel, that the Kingdom of Heaven is near and that God Himself needed to become human, die, and rise again to save us from our sin, reconcile us to Himself, and give us access to that Kingdom. That means working as He worked by loving and caring for those around us, both those who know Him and those who don’t. 
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

As we work, we need to train our hearts and minds to see God in this physical world around us. We can glorify God and point others to Him and His goodness by stewarding His creation and His good creations – including work, relationships, a beautiful creation, food and drink. But we can’t place our hope in them, for they can’t hold the weight of our hope. They aren’t the source of our joy and fulfillment. Instead, we need to see God’s gifts as reflections and images of the fullness of the beauty to come. 

So we act. And while we act amidst both the brokenness and beauty in this world, we find that there is a deep thirst within us that can’t be quenched by anything this world has to offer. We are eternal beings with eternal souls, and only God, the source of all that is good and true and beautiful and right, can fully satisfy us (John 6:35).

This means we can live in hope as we look to our homecoming, that day when we will walk by sight and glimpse that far kingdom and new creation where our God will wipe away our tears, heal our brokenness and make us whole (Revelation 21:1-7). For it’s there, in that better country, where we will at last behold the Lord and forever be satisfied by Him.