There is an idea among many Christians that once we die we will grow some wings, this old sinful broken world will be destroyed in a massive fire and we will all float up to the gates of Heaven, give St. Peter a high five and pick up the keys to our swanky new mansion. This is a nice idea except for the fact for the first Christians that it’s not the way they thought about the afterlife. It’s not how they talked about Heaven.
Actually what’s more likely is that this world, the one we are on now will be joined with Heaven and restored in a new and incredible way.
So if we think of the future in this way, what does this mean for the present?
For how we use the 70 odd years we have on Earth if we’re lucky. For where we go, where we don’t go and what we do, say and think?
For example, many Christians believe things like drinking and swearing are wrong. Can we swear and not have it be a big deal? Can Christians drink?
When getting to Heaven is our sole aim then we think that we can’t engage with certain things. We become frightened by them. We live in fear of them as if being associated with certain people or things will harm our chances of getting to Heaven. We think of Heaven as a place where there is no sin and no pain and we consider things like drinking and swearing to be things that hurt us.
So we don’t go to pubs or don’t swear or don’t have dinner with tiny tax collectors, as if that is the point? As if that is what really matters.
We act like we are already there. Like we’re just preserving everything the way it is so we can show God how little we sinned.
It’s like the story in Matthew about some servants who were each given some money to invest for their Master while he was away on a business trip. Two of the servants used their money and invested it and made it into more money. While the other servant hid his money so he could give it back to his boss. There is more going on here than just a fairytale about how we shouldn’t be lazy.
There is a story here about what we really believe our purpose is. A story about where we believe this is all heading. A story not about gripping the sides of the seat as we try and get through this ride.
But one where what we do now actually matters.
Where how we treat those we disagree with and those who hate us matters.
Where how we treat the planet matters.
Where how we think about justice and sin and tofu and plants and archery and education and wars and sex and farming and donuts and comedy and community and cinema and human trafficking and the poor and what we’re having for dinner….all matter.
Where we see all people and all the places we experience as beautiful gifts on Earth as they are in Heaven.
Because escaping means we’re done.
And what would be the point of that
When there’s so much more to do and we’re only getting started.