Having returned not long ago from a 4000-mile, three-week family trip, we’ve seen our fair share of license plates. In our part of rural Texas, we see mainly other Texas plates, with an occasional out-of-state plate from Louisiana or Oklahoma. But in the Northeast, our destination for this trip, seeing another Texas plate was rare. We took an overnight camping trip to Maine while on our trip, and seeing another Texas plate in the campground was really exciting. We felt an instant bond with the other Texas family that had made the long haul north. The further away you are, the more exciting it is to see someone from home.
If you’ve ever played the license plate game on vacation, you learn a few things. Maine and Washington are pretty common to see on semis, so even though they’re from opposite ends of the country, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll see a few of each. And wherever your home state, you’re guaranteed to see the surrounding states at some point on your trip. But others you’re almost certain not to see. In all my years of family vacations, I’ve only seen a handful of Hawaii plates, and most of those are vanity plates on the front bumper, not an official one on the back of the car. Same thing with Alaska. And unless we’re going to the Northeast, I rarely see New Hampshire or Rhode Island. When we do see one of the less common states, we all take notice.
The Bible talks about Christians as strangers in this world. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (NIV). The English Standard Version calls us “sojourners and exiles.” In other words, we’re on a long trip through a foreign land, with heaven as our true home.
On this lifelong trip, people notice us. Like a Hawaii license plate in the Midwest, Christians are supposed to stand out from the world around us. As the verse from 1 Peter exhorts, we should live such good lives among nonbelievers that they see our good deeds and glorify God.
Likewise, this comparison means we should seek the company of fellow Christians along our journey. As our family felt a bond with the other Texas family in Maine, so fellow Christians should support one another in this world. In church, we’re surrounded by other Christians and draw strength from God’s Word and Sacraments together. But when we’re out in the world, in the workplace or at school, we probably aren’t surrounded by fellow Christians. That’s why it’s so important to meet together regularly, to remind ourselves that we aren’t alone.
Someday we will reach our true home—heaven. But in the meantime, travel wisely. Invite others to journey with you. Support fellow travelers along the way. It may not be an easy journey, but the final destination is absolutely worth it.