Perhaps no theologian worked harder than Augustine to help his fellow believers grasp the truth that we live as pilgrims in this world “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city to come.”
Reflecting on Augustine’s tome The City of God this summer recalibrated my own sense of viewing this life as a spiritual pilgrimage. Happily, it also aligns with the 2018-19 theme for Bethlehem College & Seminary’s new House System initiative, which is “The Christian Life as Pilgrimage.” As I have met with the newly elected House leaders, I continue to return to two observations on pilgrimage from Hebrews 11:13-16.
First, the author praises the heroes of the faith for living and dying differently. They lived like “strangers and aliens” in the land. They “died in faith,” having only seen the promised land from afar (v. 13). The author is clear that they did this because they “desired a better country” (v. 16). They lived and died as pilgrims pursuing the promised land. What is notable about the pilgrim lifestyle is the reality it communicates: this world is not our lasting home. In this way, pilgrims witness to the world to come (v. 14).
If we speak and behave as if this world is not our home, we invite others to imagine another world, a heavenly home.
Second, the author implies that for pilgrims the destination shapes the journey. It is not just about the journey. The journey does matter, and the journey teaches valuable lessons. For Christians, however, the destination is what matters most. We want heaven. And in God’s good design for this life, the journey is necessary because it prepares us for the destination. We need this place, these people, and this time for God to sanctify us. The journey nurtures faith, hope, and love in us for the Heavenly City. The pilgrim life is our school for eternal life because it orders our desires toward the One in whom we will rest for eternity.
As new students arrive at Bethlehem College & Seminary for the first time this Fall and as current students return, we aim to equip them for the journey by teaching them about the destination. For Christ is both the way and the end of the Christian life.
One specific way Bethlehem will equip college students for the pilgrim life is through the new discipleship initiative called the House System. The House System enriches college student life by fostering a community that promotes spiritual growth, academic flourishing, and leadership development. Each incoming college student is ‘sorted’ into a gender-specific, non-residential ‘house,’ which meets regularly to deepen friendships and strengthen each other’s faith through life together, events, and competition with other houses.
These houses form an identity around specific men and women of faith who represent the qualities cherished by Bethlehem. The three female houses are named after Perpetua, Anne Dutton, and Elizabeth Elliot, and the three male houses after Augustine, Jonathon Edwards, and C.S. Lewis. Through leadership development, life-on-life mentoring, and friendly competition the House System will serve as one means of discipleship along the pilgrim way during the college season.
So please pray with us as we seek to live out the truth that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
Instructor of Theology and Humanities
- Pray for our new students as they complete Orientation activities today and settle into new routines.
- Pray for a smooth launch of house system, and that it will be a blessing to our college students.
- Pray for all our students, faculty, and staff as they begin a new school year.
- Pray for the filling of the Alex Steddom International Student Fund to support René and Chying Chying this coming year.