Are We Pilgrims or Settlers?
In grade school most of us probably learned the story of the first Thanksgiving. Maybe you dressed like a Native American or a pilgrim, fashioning a construction paper headpiece to represent which one you were portraying. According to History.com, the Wampanoag tribe and the Plymouth colonists had what many consider the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. Our Thanksgiving celebrations probably look a bit different from the original one, but there’s still a chance you may have some pilgrims in attendance.
The apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul…” Peter is writing to fellow Christians throughout this letter, but why would he refer to them as “sojourners and pilgrims”? Perhaps it’s due to the temptation to look at life from the other side of the coin with the vast majority of the world – as a settler.
We’re all living in this same world, but the way we approach life can and should be different than what’s overwhelmingly typical. It’s easy to settle into this life. It’s easy to focus our attention solely on the day-to-day and become consumed with all this life can bring. It’s not that we’re to be passive or apathetic about life or the world, but to understand our true citizenship (where we’re meant to settle) is beyond this life and this world.
To that point, Paul made an appeal to Christians, spiritual pilgrims, in Philippians 3:17–20, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
If we settle on “earthly things,” we’re not preparing for the permanent settlement of heaven. Let’s remember we’re made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and we’re purposed to dwell with Him. In fact, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1–3, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.”
This Thanksgiving (and every other day) let’s remember we have so much to be thankful for, but not only in the physical blessings of this life. God has even greater spiritual blessings in store for those who live this life as spiritual pilgrims. So please, don’t settle…not here anyway.