Songs are important. The words we sing, the words we listen to, sink in and take hold of us. That’s why I get so annoyed when I hear Christian songs on the radio or choruses and hymns sung in church that relay bad theology. I’m not just talking about esoteric theology, like debates about Trinity or what happens at the end of time. But when we’re talking about fundamental perspectives of life, it’s kind of important.
I’ve been hearing this one song over and over again on Christian radio, and it’s bugged me every time. And today, it just struck a deep enough nerve to make me want to say something. It goes like this:
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
And I want to yell “bullshit” every time I hear it.
Guess what? You were born on this earth for a reason. You were put here by God intentionally. This is not just some temporary holding place until it’s your turn to catch a ride to the other side of eternity. The earth is your home, and it’s about time you get used to it.
Such songs about being sojourners in a foreign land, yes, they do have some biblical basis. This life is transitory. And it’s hard. And let’s face it, when life is hard, when we endure loss, grief, hardship, suffering, we long for this life to be over and to move on a place of peace and eternal joy. And these songs also remind us to not put too much stock in achieving earthly glory, wealth or power. Ultimately, it will all be dust.
But here’s the simple truth. God created humanity. And he placed us here.
He did not birth us as only spiritual creatures designed to live in ethereal realms. When God decided to create human beings, he placed us on earth, in the Garden of Eden – not in some spooky spiritual dimension. He gave us physical bodies, and gave us plants to eat. He put us here to work, to tend the garden, to occupy ourselves here, and to enjoy the beauty and fruit of the place. And he called it “good!” This is your home.
We have bodies. We have minds. We have emotions. And we have spirits. We are an integrated being, not separate slices piled on top of each other. That old saying, “you are a spirit, you have a soul, you live in a body,” is partially true. But the full truth is “you are a spirit, you are a soul, you are a body.” So important are these components, so inextricably intertwined and interdependent, that the Bible tells us at the end of all things, at the Great Resurrection, we will be forever clothed in flesh. Resurrected flesh, to be sure, a glorified body, but a body nonetheless (1 Cor 15:42-54). And, if the book of Revelations is taken literally, God himself will move his Throne from Heaven to earth, and the dwelling place of God will be on earth with humanity for all time (Rev 21:2-3). Even if this is taken figuratively, God comes to dwell with/within man — not that we should be eagerly seeking an otherworldly existence.
Early biblical interpreters universally shared this perspective of living in the here and now, in this world. Rabbis from the first centuries talked about the earth as a gift to man, showing God’s favor on us. And the creation story of Genesis is explained in a parable of a great king who prepares a banquet. First he makes all the preparations, and then he invites the guests of honor. “Adam was created [last of all things] on the eve of Sabbath. And why? … That he might straightway go in to the banquet. The matter may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in the guests” (b.San 38a). And Philo, a contemporary of the Apostle Paul, echoes the universality of this as the accepted understanding when he relates a similar story: “Just as givers of a banquet, then, do not send out the summonses to supper till they have put everything in readiness for the feast … exactly in the same way the Ruler of All Things … when about to invite man to the enjoyment of a feast and a great spectacle, made ready beforehand the material…” (On Creation 78).
The earth was made and prepared for us.
And we were made to live and enjoy life here.
This is your home; you do belong here.
Ya know, sometimes the earth is a mess. People are hurting, and you’ll hurt too. But you were placed here to be salt and to be light. To do good things. And to enjoy the beauty and fruit of the garden. So isn’t it about time you stop focusing on — and singing about — flying away to glory and escaping the bonds of this earthly life, and start getting about the business you were placed here to do?
You’ve got a mission. You’ve got a purpose. And you are not done yet. This is where you are meant to be. This is your home. Get used to it.
STEVE SCHMIDT serves on the pastoral staff of Expressions Church in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He blogs at CafeInspirado.com, and you can always find him skulking on Facebook.