In 1981 I joined the Army, and after basic training went to Germany to serve my three years. It was peacetime, and I was one of thousands of soldiers helping to maintain an American presence in Europe. While there, I observed three types of soldiers.
The first type were the young ones who had never been to a foreign country before. They were like kids in a candy store – all hopped up on sugar. They wanted to see, taste and experience everything they could in this foreign land. They learned enough of the language to get around and communicate with the locals, and even their living quarters took on a German look, as they surrounded themselves with the things of the land. Their military mission was more of a side-line in this adventure in a foreign culture. They talked about home mostly as a place they will eventually go back to, but in the meantime, they are enjoying this strange, foreign place.
The second type of soldier became completely immersed in the culture, and usually ended up making it his home after his time in the military was over. They usually end up retiring in Germany, often marrying German wives, and live out their lives there. They rarely, if ever, talk about home, because this place has become their home.
But then we have the third type of soldier. They are usually somewhat older, but not always. They rarely venture off base, learn little of the language, and are generally unbedazzled by this foreign land. They are there to do a mission and then get back home. They know it is important that they be here, but they also know they won’t be staying. When you talk to them, they always talk about home, and you can hear the longing in their voice. They are focused on the task they are there for, but you can tell that their hearts are somewhere else. They don’t hate this place, and even find enjoyment in the good things it has to offer…but they have no desire to stay here.
It all just begs the question…”which one am I?”. Which one are you? Have you accepted the gift of salvation offered by Christ, yet still want to taste, see and experience everything this world has to offer? Have you been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God, but remain fascinated with the things that belong to the darkness? Has the work of the Kingdom taken a backseat to your desire to enjoy life here to the fullest?
Have you made this place your home, becoming completely immersed in the culture around you? Has this place so captured your heart and mind that no one would know that you are a foreigner here? Do you ever talk about home, or is this place now home for you?
Or are you the one who keeps these things in mind:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.” Hebrews 11:13-14
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1Peter 2:11
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
Fellow soldiers, it is not peacetime in this foreign land. We are at war. We cannot make ourselves at home here, and allow the enemy to distract us with what surrounds us. Nor can we allow the devastation brought by war to cause us to retreat in fear and despair. We must stay focused. We must remember where we are and why we are here. And we must keep our hearts turned toward home.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Psalm 73:25