“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul…” – 1 Peter 2:11
“Let us remember, that whilst in this world, we sojourn in a strange lade, and are at a distance from our home; and, therefore, do not let us be inordinately affected with anything in it.” – Philip Doddridge
It so happened on a particular day in a far off land many years ago, two young men walked along a dusty road. Their shoes were worn from travelling many miles on such roads, and their clothes were dirt brown in color (whether naturally or from the dust, none can tell). Both carried staves in their hands and packs upon their backs. Their names were Demas and Titus, two travelers in a foreign land.
They had traversed many a mile, seeking the kingdom of their ancestors. Titus had received a small leather-bound book from his father, who said that it had always been his dream to return to the far away kingdom, but he had died before finding it. Titus considered it his solemn duty to likewise seek this kingdom. His closest friend, Demas, after hearing the words of the ancient book and for love of his friend, deemed it likewise and joined the journey.
For the first time in many days, the two young men looked up and saw a village they would have to pass through on their way to the kingdom. In a sense, it came as a relief, for they had often camped out under the stars (which may sound pleasant, and is, until it rains). The small city was surrounded by a tall wooden fence and the gates were open, despite the fact the evening was drawing on. From the main street, Titus and Demas found an inn, where they found a meal and repose for the night. As was their custom, Titus read a portion from the ancient book, and they slept with dreams of a far off kingdom, flowing with milk and honey.
The next day they entered the market, as Titus was in need of a new pair of shoes. The bustle of the midday was suffocating in this village, and both remarked on how such a small place could hold so many people. Finding all they needed, the two men decided to wander about until it was time for their dinner at the inn. They saw merchants selling glittering jewelry, delectable dainties, gaudy clothing, and nearly anything one might desire. On top of all that, the cries of fortune tellers, self-proclaimed prophets, and men yelling out the daily news, it made quite a scene.
Both Titus and Demas felt in their hearts a longing to abide in that village. When they returned to the inn it was the main topic of discussion. After their dinner, the exhausted men returned to their rooms. Titus read from the book as usual, and was reminded of the fact he was a pilgrim, and could not abide here for much longer. Demas, though he heard the words spoken, did not heed them. His mind was instead filled with the delights of the city, and the glory of the far off kingdom faded.
The next morning, as Titus began to prepare for traveling, Demas resolved to tell Titus his thoughts. Demas wanted to stay in the city; Titus, on the other hand, wanted to continue on their journey. Titus made the case for continuing their journeys, reminding Demas of the joys that awaited them in the far off kingdom. Demas agreed, for the moment, and likewise packed his things. As they walked through the main street once more, seeking to exit the city, Demas’ heart faltered. The sights, sounds and smells overwhelmed his senses. When they reached the exit of the city, Demas turned around for one last look; his heart hardened.
Harsh words began to be spoken between two men who were once friends. Demas began to insist that the far off kingdom probably didn’t exist, and that this city was as good as it got. Titus trusted the words of the book and implored Demas not to leave him. It was there the two men parted ways; Titus, along the dusty road, and Demas, who camped outside the city walls (having no extra money to pay for a room).
There Demas camped for many days. For a while, he remembered the words of the book, heeding their warnings that the cities of that kingdom were evil; but as the days went by, he forgot those words and found himself more often within the city walls. Eventually, finding some carpentry work there, he was able to buy a home. His fellow workers would often try to convince him, but Demas did not them down into the dens of the city, drinking and enjoying every pleasure the city offered him. In time, he became a prestigious man, known for goodness among the people and became a sort of judge of their affairs. This of course happened over many years. Letters came from Titus, and remained unread.
In the kingdom wherein that little city was, none were aware of the encroaching threat. War was approaching from the south, where an angry warlord crushed all who stood in his way. This news eventually reached the city where Demas sat as judge. Some thought it was just a silly rumor; others held confidence in the armies of their own king. News continued to flow in about the conquest of the warlord: he had moved from city to city, razing them all to ash and dust. Eventually, the warlord’s banners could be seen approaching the village. Demas remembered Titus at that moment, but it was far too late.
Titus, in the mean time, had travelled his long and weary way to the far off kingdom. Over hill and vale, through canyon and crag, he continued his walk, stopping only at night to sleep. The ancient book from his father was his only comfort. He often thought of his old friend Demas along the road, wishing him there beside him. Merchants traveled the same road, and every time they passed him, Titus would give them a letter to give to Demas, though he never knew what became of those epistles.
Eventually, he reached the end of the road; it was cut off by a large and impassable river. He sat and wondered what the next step was. A man approached him (from where, he knew not) and said, “Dear friend, what do you seek?”
“Sir, I seek the far off kingdom, spoken of in this ancient volume,” Titus replied.
The stranger took the book from Titus and read a few pages, then smiled and returned it. “Come with me.” Taking Titus’s hand, the stranger walked towards the river. Though at first apprehensive, Titus felt the strong grip of the man’s hand, and followed joyfully. The moment their feet touched the water, the flow stopped, as though a giant hand held it back. A bridge appeared in the midst of two walls of water, and on this they walked. They reached the other side, and Titus’s eyes were opened: before him lay a massive city with glowing white stone walls. The gates were made of gold that blazed in the sunlight.
“Welcome home, Titus,” the man said with a smile. And, led by the hand through the city, Titus saw things there too wonderful to describe with mere words. There he dwelt in joy to the end of his days and, perhaps, beyond.