There are some gospel songs that were popular fifty years ago but which we hear less often today. They include lines such as these:
•I want a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.1
•This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.2
•My heavenly home is bright and fair, I feel like traveling on.3
The common theme in those songs is that we Christians are citizens of God’s kingdom in eternity and that our sojourn on earth is just a temporary stop on the way to that “glory land.” Our life here, so this idea goes, is a kind of proving ground for the world to come.
While those songs continue to have some value, they seem to suggest that once we are headed for heaven, we can write off trying to improve this earthly country. The fact is, that notion does not jibe with the biblical picture. Certainly the Bible speaks of eternal life, and the apostle Paul even mentioned being eager to get there (Philippians 1:20-24). Another New Testament writer said, “For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Yet none of that supports the idea that Christians should turn a blind eye to the society in which they live.
Yes, we Christians do have our citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20); but we are to live our “kingdom principles” here on earth. A much better song for us contains this verse,
This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.4
To that, Jeremiah would likely say, “Amen!”