It's January. That means that once again, it's time for K-Love's 30-Day Challenge – something I have some concerns about. In response to my concerns, today I'm continuing to critically evaluate some of the songs that K-Love regularly plays. Today's focus is Where I Belong by Building 429.
My first exposure to this song was at a National Youth Workers Convention where I heard thousands of youth workers singing it together, fists pumping the air with excitement as they belted out the chorus:
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.
Certainly, the idea that heaven, not earth, is our home is common, especially in the evangelical world. In some ways, it's even Biblical. As Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
As a result, perhaps at first glance, these lyrics sound like something we should be enthusiastically singing and pumping our fists too.
But then again, maybe not.
After all, what is it we really mean when we sing, “All I know is I'm not home yet This is not where I belong”?
I fear that what we mean when we sing these words is “Thank God this problem-filled sucky world is only temporary and that after we die, we'll go to someplace much much better.”
The problem with that interpretation is that it promotes escapism.
Just consider the verses that surround these words.
We need not be concerned with being an outsider because “This is not where I belong”. We need not be concerned with searching for answers because “This is not where I belong”. We need not be concerned with the problems that surround us because “This is not where I belong”.
While problematic in and of themselves, what happens when we take this idea even further and expand it to issues not addressed in the song itself?
Why should we care about the earth and the environment if in fact “this is not where we belong”? If “this is not where we belong”, why care about other people? Or poverty? Or war and genocide? In short, if “this is not where we belong”, why should we care about anything other than our personal salvation?
Such a mentality ignores the “one another” commands found throughout Jesus' teaching.
It ignores the example Jesus set of loving and serving others.
Rather than give life meaning, such a mentality robs life of meaning in the here and now. Far from promoting the kind of “abundant life” that Jesus came to give, this mentality reduces faith to an insurance policy useful only in as much as it provides us with hope for after we die.
In reality, our Christian faith is much deeper, richer, and more meaningful than that.
Because of Jesus' death on the cross, we know God doesn't abandon us in this sucky world, but instead, is with us in our suffering.
Through Jesus' death and resurrection, we have hope – not just for eternal life – but for ongoing reconciliation and redemption in the here and now.
By following Jesus' example of servant leadership, we can make a tangible difference in many of the problems plaguing our world today.
As Christians, heaven may be where our citizenship lies, but earth is our home – for however long we're blessed to be here.
For roughly 33 years, earth was also Jesus' home and during that time, he wasn't constantly trying to escape it. Instead, he was fully present – pouring into and investing in those around him.
Ultimately, I think that's where this song gets it most wrong.
How can we sing “Take this world and give me Jesus” when in fact, God did the opposite?
He created the world and gave it Jesus.