In his book, The Conviction to Lead, Albert Mohler quotes from Eugene Peterson’s Perseverance: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want shortcuts. They want me to help them fill in the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity). They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points…The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.
–Eugene Peterson (emphasis mine)
Having worked in the hospitality industry in Florida for a number of years, I am well acquainted with the lifestyle of a tourist. The tourist spends his time and money in a manner vastly different from those who are the locals.
Nothing is inherently wrong with being a tourist when we think of geographic locations and breaks from long weeks of work back home. A different assessment is probably warranted when we speak of our spiritual journey.
On the one hand, tourists to Florida are often instantly recognizable. They take aspects of local life and magnify them with their behavior. For example, many tourists can be spotted by their attire. They were bright floral shirts or Disney t-shirts. Granted, we who live in the Sunshine State often have these items as well. But we also wear solid color polo shirts. Most days find me in a pair of shorts. The tourist in shorts often can be spotted by the legs whitened from the cold of the northern states. At the beach the whiteness soon turns to a bright red as the sun’s impact makes a quick difference to their hue.
Tourists spend their time and money visiting tourist attractions. We do, too. But since we live her all the time, we spread out our visits. The tourist is on a mad dash to visit as many spots as humanly possible in a limited time frame.
Tourists here eat citrus fruit and seafood. We do, too. But we also eat chicken, pasta and beans.
When it comes to the dark side, tourists often do things that they would never do if they were home around family and friends. This is true no matter the out of town location. I have witnessed hotel behavior from those away from the normal constraining influences in their lives. The prostitution industry would be nowhere as large if people did not travel and stay in hotels. I could write a book on things I have observed.
So what of the Christian who adopts the spiritual lifestyle of the tourist? As Peterson wrote, they are looking for the attraction spots (high points) and they are looking for them now. How should we think of our time spent in this world?
The better and biblical metaphor is that of a sojourner. We are traveling through the world. We set up residency, but it is with the understanding that we are citizens of a city and a kingdom to come.
We may eat the food and wear the apparel and visit the spots of this world, but always within the framework of being a sojourner on our way to our eternal home.
Which lifestyle are you living? That of a tourist or that of a sojourner?