They say that in New York, you can always tell who the tourists are. They’re the ones wondering around aimlessly, noses either in a guidebook, or pointed to the sky. This would apply to any big city, right?
When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we gained new citizenship in Heaven. And now, as Peter says (1 Peter 2:11), we are “strangers and pilgrims”. We’re passing through. So any feeling of unrequited longing or unsteadiness could be due to the fact that we’re really not from around here, right? It could be a sort of spiritual homesickness. That’s ok, but contrast this: Jeremiah, writing to the Jewish captives in Babylon, told them to “seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it”. He says “for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” Sure, they were more than just tourists—they weren’t there by choice—but how many of us find ourselves in places other than ideal?
Another New York-ism says that “the quickest way across town is to have been born there”. We all, prior to accepting Jesus, were “born here”. And now, without God’s word as a travel guide, navigating the uncharted urbania in which we now find ourselves–while maintaining and developing the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)–is impossible. It’s a (spiritual) jungle out there.
When I was a kid, I lived near Los Angeles. At the time, the smog in the city was so bad as to (nearly) occlude the sky, you had to look straight up in order to see any blue. So look up! All the better if someone knows I’m a Christian, right? How many times have you heard of (or experienced for yourself) an unsaved individual needing some sort of existential help and knowing just who to call. It was their “one Christian friend” who always seemed abnormally, unusually happy—even to the point of derision. I remember “admitting” once to an older couple I’d known for years as acquaintances that I was Christian. “We figured as much” said one. What?! My reputation precedes me. I came away from that encounter encouraged but puzzled. Sure, such a marked distinction in my demeanor might have signified to this man and his wife that I was different. But Christian? Forgive me for tooting my own horn here because, while I am marginally aware of people’s perceptions of me, I don’t really know what they’re thinking. Especially about me. They had obviously observed me and realized that I fit the description. But it wasn’t like I knew or even cared what, if anything, they thought of me. I guess I’m “just not from around here”. I used to be though.
Hebrews (13:14) says that “here we have no continuing city”. We are passing through. Homesickness for Heaven is a healthy symptom. A symptom of spiritual life. While we’re here in the valley of the shadow of skyscrapers, as we pray for and encourage those, like us, who were born here and still count this as their (permanent) home, God is going to do the same for us in our sojourn. And He’ll bring along any who want to come.
In closing, two things: Firstly, I would like to say that Heaven is a city (see Revelation 21:10). It’s not some giant cloud as portrayed and mythologized in contemporary imagery. Where was the imagination of whoever came up with that representation? And secondly, the former mayor of New York, the late Edward Koch: “I can explain it for you, but I can’t comprehend it for you.” That’s exactly how I feel with reference to Heaven. Tome after tome has been released recently, explaining the reality and atmosphere of Heaven. I, however, would like to comprehend it for myself.
Thank you very much.