Monday, August 28, 2006

The Hope of Heaven Gives Us the Power to Live Fully Today

The Martian Anthropologist is a blogger who suffers from a painful chronic disease.

He writes well.

He's a person of intelligence who loves his wife and his family, the sort of person with whom I think I could get along and whose company I'm sure that I would enjoy.

That last statement may surprise some of you who know that the Martian Anthropologist is an atheist and I'm a Christian.

But I'm a former atheist and like another former atheist, C.S. Lewis, I find that my faith in Christ makes it easy for me to befriend people of all faiths or no faith. My faith in Christ allows me to be open to others, even when I may disagree with them.

In a post in which he paints a poignant picture of beauty and pain intermingling in his life, the Anthropologist makes this confession:
I don’t understand religious people who look for a paradise after this life, instead of doing their best to create it here.
I suppose that we all know Christians who are so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good, as the saying goes. But it's been my experience that the hope of heaven more often gives Christians the incentive and ability to live this life to its fullest.

You see, when you're unafraid of the consequences of death, as Christians are, you can live life with abandon and joy.

This fearlessness also frees Christians to battle injustice, a very in-the-moment pursuit. South African Bishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out and working against apartheid, the systematic oppression of blacks in his country, in spite of constant death threats. Some of those threats came from his country's government, which had the power to arrest him and do to him what they wished any time. But Tutu kept up his courageous campaign. He did so precisely because the certainty of heaven allowed him to focus his attention and energy on this life. As Tutu explained:
There is nothing the government can do to me that will stop me from being involved in what I believe God wants me to do. I do not do it because I like doing it. I do it because I am under what I believe to be the influence of God's hand. I cannot help it. When I see injustice, I cannot keep quiet, for, as Jeremiah says, when I try to keep quiet, God's Word burns like a fire in my breast.

But what is it that they can ultimately do? The most awful thing that they can do is to kill me, and death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.
When Christians gather to worship God on Sunday mornings and other times, they aren't looking "for a paradise after this life, instead of doing their best to create it here." They're praising God for all the blessings He's already given through Jesus Christ , including eternity.

, they're asking God for the power to so live in this world that they share God's blessings--spiritual, relational, and material--with others. That's why we often pray at our church that God will enlist us in helping Him to make the world a new and better creation. It's why we're committed to serving others in our community, whether in helping Habitat for Humanity build homes for the poor, working with kids at the local Boys and Girls Club, providing food, toiletries, and coats for the poor, sending Christmas gifts to kids in faraway countries, helping get clean drinking water to an obscure village in Zimbabwe, giving gas money to a family that needs it for the Mom to get to her job, providing a place for local social service agencies to plan their work, or handing out cold bottles of water to passersby on hot summer days. When you're filled with the hope of eternity, it makes a real difference in how you live today!

The Christian's hope of eternity that impacts our daily living is also why I tell the people of our congregation that the holiest moment of our worship celebrations come when, strengthened again by our corporate encounter with God, we're given a blessing and sent into the world to live a life of love for God and neighbor.

Jesus Christ doesn't insulate Christians from reality. He sends us as change agents to transform reality one moment and one person at a time!


Martian Anthropologist said...

Mark, just noticed your post and link. Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you are having a good night.

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for stopping by! Right now, in fact, it is a good night...the Reds are finally winning a game, with an inning left to go.