Thoughts on Pilgrimage

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What comes to mind when you hear the word pilgrim?

A girl backpacking

Image copyright (c)

In America most of us probably form a mental picture of the people who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, dressed in their austere black clothing, complete with funny hats. For some, the word might bring to mind John Bunyan’s allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Others may think about the pilgrimage that Muslims must make to Mecca once in a lifetime.

Each of those mental pictures evokes a similar concept: travelling.

When we think of the “Thanksgiving Pilgrims”, the ones who came to America on the Mayflower and landed on Plymouth Rock, we generally are thinking about people traveled to a land where they would have religious freedom. On the other hand, Pilgrim’s Progress focuses on a different kind of journey, a journey to the “Heavenly City”. And the Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca is also a journey. For some, it is a short distance; for others, it involves great expense and a trip to the other side of the world.

Generally speaking, when we think of a pilgrim, we think of someone who is on a journey. Although that’s true, it’s not the complete Biblical picture.

In Hebrews 11:13, the King James Version reads, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13 KJV).

But the word that is translated “pilgrims” here is better translated as “resident aliens”, “sojourners”, or even “exiles”.

Peter uses the same word to describe Christians when he writes, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul,” (1Pe 2:11 ESV).

How do you view your life here on Earth?

Do you see yourself as a resident alien, a sojourner, an exile?

What does that even look like?

It seems to me that most Christians in America (myself included) live lives that don’t remotely resemble the lifestyle of a sojourner or exile.

The old hymn lyric goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”

Based on the general conduct of Christians in America, it might be more accurate to sing, “This world is not my home, but I’m going to enjoy it as long and as much as I can.”

Are you an exile?

I hope so.


What do you think? Keep the discussion going by adding your comments below.

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