Posted by: Mike Willoughby | July 27, 2010

Foreign Travel

This week, I get a new stamp in my passport as I visit Shanghai.  For those of you who travel internationally, you will relate to the many different subtle and not-so-subtle ways you are reminded that you are not home. 

Entering a foreign country through passport control removes any doubts you may have had concerning your foreign status.  The signs may say “Bienvenidos,”  “Willkommen,” “Bienvenue,” or “Welcome” as you walk through the hall, but you are in a different line than the residents and you receive a different level of treatment.  Once inside your host country, casual conversations around you conducted in an unfamiliar language, undecipherable traffic signs, different rules of driving etiquette, native cuisine, unique table manners and the currency used to pay the bill are all signals of your true status.  You are a traveler in a foreign land.

Abraham knew how it felt to be a traveler in a foreign land.  God gave the land of Canaan on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea to Abraham and God moved Abraham’s entire family from the country of Ur in present day Iraq to Canaan.  However, Abraham never possessed the land God gave to him.  All Abraham’s life, he and his family lived a nomadic existence in tents.  Abraham was exceedingly wealthy and influential in Canaan, but he was never a native of the country.  Abraham could look across the lands from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and know his family was meant for a grander existence in the land some day.  Abraham lived in Canaan, but he was not truly at home.   

Perhaps like Abraham, you have run into some of the same subtle indications that you are a spiritual traveler in a foreign land.  You enjoy life on this earth in the area where you have been placed.  You are comfortable with the living arrangements with which you have been blessed.  However, there are times when you get the impression you are meant for a grander existence.  You look up into the infinitely deep starry heavens from a clear mountain sky and realize there is so much more in the universe than what you have seen.  You observe the beauty in the world and have the impression that the whole world was meant to be thoroughly beautiful rather than marred by man-made and natural scars.  As you live in your own body with it limitations and aches and pains, you feel something more was intended than the amazing but still fragile functionality of your human body.  You would be right.

God designed humans for an endless perfect life which Adam and Eve rejected through their sin in the Garden of Eden.  Every one of us reaffirms that rejection of a perfect existence when we individually sin.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20-21 we are just travelers spending time in a foreign land of physical existence and our ultimate destination is that state of perfection for which we were designed.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we wait a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

I carry a U.S. passport but I am actually a citizen of heaven and my Heaven passport is the Holy Spirit who God used to seal my spiritual existence through my faith in Jesus Christ.  I live in my “native” country inside this physical body which feels anything but permanent.  My physical body contains a permanent soul that longs to be free from the constraints of this temporary world.  I have in effect dual citizenship – one temporary physical citizenship and one permanent spiritual citizenship.  Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:1-10 of the tension we all feel as dual citizens and perhaps in an allusion to Abraham’s experience, he uses the analogy of our bodies as tents.

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.  For while we were still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given the Spirit as a guarantee.

 So we are always of good courage.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

This week, I am happy to be traveling in this foreign land doing good things and doing my best to avoid evil and seeking forgiveness when I stumble.  However, I’m really looking forward to going home.  There really is no place like home!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


  1. WOW this is one of your most thought provoking posts. I love it. Yes, if I don’t feel like an alien there is something wrong.

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