7 Problems with Leaving Christianity Behind on Vacation
Whether it’s the beach, a theme park, or a scenic foreign city, vacations can be enjoyable and refreshing. New experiences can open our eyes to the wider world and build sweet memories with loved ones. Extra leisure allows us to reflect and recharge.
But among the fun and excitement, vacations have a dangerous side. I’m not talking about jellyfish or sunburn; their danger is only skin deep. I’m talking about the spiritual danger vacations pose by tempting us to leave our Christianity at home.
I’m sure the temptation is “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but vacations tempt me towards spiritual laziness. Different surroundings don’t trigger the same habits I have developed at home. Different schedules curtail or erase a dedicated quiet time. Different attitudes redirect my focus from my daily responsibilities to my own relaxation and enjoyment. Different locations distance me from the life and routine of my local church.
We can employ countless rationalizations — excuses — to justify ourselves. “Vacations are exceptions, not the rule.” “My travel itinerary only works if I take a Sunday morning flight.” “I can’t rest and recuperate from months of diligent labor if I’m getting up at 6 a.m.” But if we set aside our Christian disciplines — daily Bible reading, daily prayer, weekly gathering with God’s people — and so stagnate in our Christian walk — with impatience, careless words, and selfishness bubbling up to the surface — it’s fair to ask how our lives on vacation differ from that of a non-Christian.
Why is that a problem? Here are seven reasons:
1. God’s unchanging character still deserves our praise.
God is infinitely holy, loving, righteous, good, just, merciful, faithful, compassionate, powerful, gracious, and more, with each attribute reflecting and amplifying all the others in a brilliant display of glory we can comprehend only with awe. God deserves all praise and glory, especially for what he has done for us in Christ (1 Pet. 1:3). He is always seeking to promote his glory, and he refuses to share it with anyone. Anyone, that is, except the eternal Son, to whom he has given all glory (1 Pet. 1:11,21). If, on vacation, we neglect private prayer and public worship, we aren’t glorifying him.
2. Our changed testimony lies about God’s character.
“We are ambassadors for Christ,” wrote Paul, “God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). God has chosen to make himself known through his word, delivered by his people (1 Pet. 1:12,25). Just as our behavior can lend credibility to our testimony, so our misbehavior discredits our testimony. If we devote ourselves to relying on God and studying his word at home, but on the road act as if following God is an optional extra, then it’s our fault if unbelievers conclude from our lives that our God isn’t the unchanging Savior of his people and King of the universe.
3. Our changed testimony lies about our new character.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). We have been ransomed from the penalty of sin, “that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21): justified. And we are being redeemed from the power of sin, “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15): sanctified. As a result, our lives ought to be radically different from those who are still in their sins.
To take just one example, what do Christians do on Sunday? They gather with God’s people, as they have for 2,000 years. If you attend a local church weekly, do you attend one on vacation, too? It’s not your normal gathering, but you can still greet the saints and worship God with them. Finding a church may take research, but that’s a small price to pay to visibly identify yourself with the body of Christ, even far from home. By this small step of faithfulness, you will glorify God, encourage other believers, be edified yourself, and perhaps even present a gospel witness to unbelievers.
4. Our need of God remains the same.
Christians are repentant sinners who have believed in Jesus Christ for salvation and now “make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). But that doesn’t mean we have the power to live a godly life apart from him — his power at work within us. Rather, we continue to struggle against sin as long we remain on earth. “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4). Those groans against our sinful flesh must go up to God in prayer, that he might rescue and purify us from them.
5. Temptation persists.
That points us to another problem: sin is still plotting to ensnare us on vacation, whether we are aware of it or not. Our flesh is still weak. The world is still wicked. The devil still prowls around. So we must prepare our minds for action at all times (1 Pet. 1:13).
We could face temptations to anger in traffic, to sloth as we sleep in, to worry lest we miss our flight, to lust on the beach, to pride as we tally up our social media likes, to drunkenness from a night on the town. Vacations can present a perfect storm of temptations, which are all the more dangerous if our guard is down.
6. God is our judge.
It is true that the blood of Jesus atones for all our sins, and that nothing can separate God’s children from his eternal love. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have to give an account for our actions. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). Our salvation in Christ does not give us a license to go on sinning. Rather, it should spur us to live a godly, holy life, “as obedient children” of God (1 Pet. 1:14-16). Knowing that God will judge us is why we fear him (2 Cor 5:11, 1 Pet. 1:17), this gives us one more compelling reason to press on in our Christian walk.
7. Our hope isn’t set on this world.
Christians ought to be joyful when times are good and when times are bad; joy impervious to circumstances is one of the most attractive features of the Christian life (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Our joy is invulnerable because our hope is invulnerable, because our salvation is invulnerable. Our salvation is kept safe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father, far beyond the reach of any temporal circumstances (1 Pet. 1:4).
In light of this, we look forward to heaven more than we look forward to our next fun trip. “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, … and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6,8). What sustains us through long months of hard work is not that exciting trip we have been planning, but the hope of dwelling forever in the presence of Jesus our Savior. What gives us joy on vacation is not the delightful experiences — those can change or fade — but our hope of eternal life (1 Pet. 1:13).
You may have noticed a theme throughout all these problems with taking a vacation from Christian living, while on vacation. These are all basic Christian teachings. Everything Christians believe remains true, even when we are taking a break from the rest of our normal lives, and we should continue to live like it.
Fortunately, that means the solution to these problems is not complicated: simply live like a Christian while you’re on vacation. Read your Bible. Pray. Have faith in God. Love one another. Gather with God’s people on Sunday. These are the things all Christians should be doing already, and should be doing even when they’re away from home.
You also may have noticed that all the Scriptures I referenced above come from only two chapters, 2 Corinthians 5 and 1 Peter 1. This was, not because the rest of Scripture doesn’t support these conclusions, but to demonstrate how deeply they are embedded throughout the Bible.
All Scripture teaches the same truths. Pick just about any chapter in Scripture, and you’ll find support for many of these points. All Scripture has the same author, God. He never changes, and the way we worship, honor, and obey him shouldn’t change either, even on vacation.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.