Three months ago while in Israel (yes, yes, I’m still talking about Israel) I had the chance to stay in the Negev Desert in a Bedouin tent. The Bedouins are a desert-dwelling nomadic people group. Their home is not a stationary building or a designated location. Instead, the tent is their home and they reside wherever they can best provide for their families through farming and herding.
Why the random facts on a Middle-Eastern people group?
The lifestyle of the Bedouins struck me as very appealing.
No, I’m not at the point of packing up and moving to live off of the land in the desert…yet. But I found their life quite peculiar and I’ve spent much time pondering of it since returning.
“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 are 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 us the Spirit as a guarantee.”2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Paul describes life on earth as life in a tent—like the Bedouins. He’s writing to encourage the Corinthians that though life has trials and burdens, they must remember that earth is not their home; it’s their temporal residency.
This idea is shown throughout the New Testament.
In Philippians 3:20 Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await 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.”
Peter calls the Christian’s life an exile. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11)
Sojourners. Exiles. Citizens of heaven.
The reality in these verses has been challenging my heart ever since I stayed with the Bedouin people.
EARTH IS NOT MY HOME.
And if you’re a follower of Jesus, earth isn’t your home either.
We are called to be resident aliens, living life on earth knowing where our true home lies. This should give us comfort and direction. When we view life on earth as temporal, we find comfort knowing that our trials, burdens, and pains are but for a moment and will soon be past, just like our lives. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14b).
Living as exiles gives us direction. When we truly understand how brief our time on earth is in light of eternity, we won’t pursue the things the world does but instead the things that Jesus does. We won’t chase the fleeting pleasures of power, fame, and money but instead will “seek the things that are above, where Christ is” (Colossians 3:1).
Living as temporal residents of this world means that we “don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life,” but instead seek to “please the officer who enlisted [us]” (2 Timothy 2:4).
Living as sojourners waiting for our eternal home means that we don’t see our money as ours to keep but instead cut back our spending budget to buy clothes and give anonymously to families in our church struggling to provide the basic needs of their growing children (Matthew 6:3-4).
Living with heaven as our home means we give up the time and money for a vacation to go serve in an underdeveloped country teaching English and training local Christians to serve their village better.
Living as resident aliens on earth means choosing to settle for a smaller, more affordable home so we can use the money to help build a home for a family who lost everything in the Ecuador earthquake.
Living as tent dwellers means we won’t become settled on living in a certain location and will be willing to go live elsewhere if God calls us.
Ultimately, living life as tent dwellers means living like Jesus.
Jesus said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
I am confident that if we as Christians recognized our role as resident aliens of this world and lived in such a way, we would see a greater glimpse of heaven on earth. When we live our lives as tent dwellers, we are giving the world a glimpse of our true home: heaven.