But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light?…. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:9–11—NKJV)

There is something to be said for the pilgrim lifestyle. The closest thing to it in our world is camping. When a family makes plans to go on a camping vacation they have certain expectations, preparations, and anticipations designed to tide them over until their return to their “real” life. There really is a camping mindset, one that intentionally does without for the sake of the “mission” of getting away from it all. Food, entertainment, intentional discomfort, extra physical work, and shrinking personal space all make for interesting times and memorable experiences.

Getting close to nature is often on the mind of vacationers. Every “rusticator” is looking for a change of pace and scenery. During my childhood, our family spent lazy summer days in the woods of Maine. We always wanted to move there but Dad would bring us back to reality by asking, “Where do people who live in ‘Vacationland’ go for vacation?” That was a thought that stumped our summer-sluggish, kid-sized minds.

Yes, it was painful to fire up the kerosene refrigerator and to defrost it from time to time. It was also inconvenient to do our laundry in the lake, line dry it, and retrieve it by flashlight when the rains came at night. Believe me, it was rarely a thing talked about in uninitiated and genteel circles that we had to maintain an outhouse. It was also discomforting to have to bug-bomb the bedrooms and difficult to get along with out electricity for radios, lights, gadgets and gizmos, but we would not trade that life for the world! Mom might have, but we wouldn’t.

The Christian life on this earth is the life of a pilgrim. Peter was writing to an audience of believing Jews who had been dispersed (1 Peter 1:1). They had been removed from their homes, their families, and their accustomed culture. They were in places far-flung from their citizenship. They were aliens, pilgrims, sojourners. The word means one who dwells in a strange place and sojourns in exile. This is also the first word in 2:11 as Peter gives the spiritual meaning of their sojourn among the heathens.

In Ephesians 2:11–19, Paul explains that before salvation every man is a “without a Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” The transformation in Christ is so complete that “now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” The new reality for every believer is that our citizenship and culture changes immediately upon our conversion while making us a denizen on the earth!

Believers treasure this new citizenship with its rights. Psalm 39:11–12 explains the estrangement that sin brings in this relationship and the fear of abusing this privileged position: “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 119:18–19 shows the loyal heart of a real citizen of the New Jerusalem: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.”

The pilgrim life on earth is a common thread for the saints throughout Scripture. Hebrews 11:9–10 and 13–16 speaks of Abraham: “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city whose Builder and Maker is God.” “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Just as they, we “have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:14)! Just like our Lord, we are “tenting” among men (John 1:14, 2 Timothy 4:6).

Peter declares, “If you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:17–19). The Christian “camper” readily boils his life down to the necessities, takes what he really needs along with him, puts up with inconvenience for the sake of the journey, does not plant his life in foreign soil, keeps his eyes open, remembers he belongs elsewhere, holds unimportant things loosely, and fulfills his mission. There ought to be a peaceful, clarifying simplicity evident in your pilgrim-style Christian life. Trust and obey.