Friday, March 28, 2014

This World Is Not My Home

One of my favorite series is  Anne of Green Gables.  One of the saddest scenes in the  books is in Anne of the Island (*Spoiler Alert*).  Anne is having one last conversation with her friend Ruby Gillis, who is dying of tuberculosis.  Ruby, who has been denying the inevitability of her death all summer, finally confesses to Anne how afraid she is to die because she knows heaven will not be what she is used to.  Every time I read the book, I cry reading Anne's next thoughts:

It was sad, tragic -- and true!  Heaven could not be what Ruby had been used to.  There had been nothing in her gay, frivolous life, her shallow ideals and aspirations, to fit her for that great change, or make the life to come seem to her anything but alien and unreal and undesirable.
I could not help but be reminded of this passage when reading 2 Peter, even though Peter's language is much stronger.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Peter 3:10-14).
Peter is reminding us that everything here on earth will be destroyed. Since we are looking forward to a new heaven and new earth, we should do all we can to make sure we will feel at home in a place where righteousness lives.  We don't want to get so comfortable, either with our day to day lives or the sin of the world, that heaven will be alien to us.

Sometimes we all settle into a comfort zone of familiar everyday activities. That's not a bad thing.  Taking care of my family is part of the job that God gave me when I chose to become a wife and mother.  Daily work like cooking dinner, going to a job, and helping with homework are pursuits that we can dedicate to God.  The problem arises when we forget to take such a heavenly view, when the rhythm of our lives becomes so normal that we are afraid to leave.

How do we avoid such a pitfall?  Peter gives us some hints.  We can remember to put first things first by keeping in mind that the earth and everything in it are doomed to destruction. I've found this helpful in my own life.  I'm potty training my toddler right now.  Even though she is my third child, I find this chore just as frustrating as I did the first time around.  When I'm frustrated, sin can easily follow (usually in the form of unnecessary anger).  But if I remember that one day every toilet on earth will be burned in fire and that her character matters much more than her age of potty training, I am better able to be patient with her when she inevitably has an accident.

We can also feel too "at home" on earth when we are complacent about sin.  Our entertainment choices are often what lead us into a relationship with the sin that drags us down. I used to watch a television show (that shall remain nameless), until it included an adulterous relationship.  Very little makes me angrier than the glorification of adultery, so I quit watching it.  I felt pretty good about myself until my husband pointed out how many other sins the show portrayed that I chose to ignore.  Lies, bad language, implied sex outside marriage, and ridiculing of Christians had all been part of what I let entertain me week after week.  It was comfortable, but it wasn't preparing me for heaven. I haven't given up TV altogether, but if I begin to get too excited about any entertainment, especially that which glorifies sin, I take a hard look at whether it is appropriate for me to enjoy it.

Peter assumes that we are looking forward to the land where righteousness lives.  When I look forward to something, I think about it often.  It's hard to think about heaven and cozy up to the world at the same time.  I can't imagine watching that show in heaven.  If I looked forward to heaven more than I tried to get comfortable in the world, I could avoid sinking back into sin.

The phrase Peter uses that sticks out to me the most is "be diligent."  Just as we can't be foolish, we can't be lazy either.  Diligence implies exertion.  It takes work to stay out of the pattern of the world and in the pattern of heaven.  Holiness and godliness do not come naturally to us, even after Jesus saves us, and we must be careful to remember every day that this world is not our home.

As Anne Shirley walked home after her final talk with Ruby Gillis, she realized that something had changed in her life.  That change is one we can all aspire to.

Life held a different meaning, a deeper purpose. On the surface it would go on just the same; but the deeps had been stirred. It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different -- something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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