Saturday, June 27, 2009

The problem with focusing on eternity

Today I was reading Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution, and came across this quote:

Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.
Shane has a way with words, and he succinctly expressed something that I had been mulling in my mind - there is a fundamental problem with the salvation/eternity-centric faith that is so prevalent. I know that in theory (I have a blog post coming on those two words, and will link it when it's done) the eternity-centric faith isn't solely eternity-centric, and offers more than just life after death, but in reality, that's not what comes across.

If we place our focus on "getting saved" and "making it to heaven" then we miss out on the vast majority of Jesus' ministry. As Shane again points out:

And yet I am convinced that Jesus came not just to prepare us to die but to teach us how to live. Otherwise, much of Jesus’ wisdom would prove quite unnecessary for the afterlife. After all, how hard could it be to love our enemies in heaven? And the kingdom that Jesus speaks so much about is not just something we hope for after we die but is something we are to incarnate now. Jesus says the kingdom is "within us," "among us," "at hand," and we are to pray that it comes "on earth as it is in heaven."
This is exacerbated by the sense that the world is evil, ruled by Satan, and a trial we have to wait out. "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin through" may make a great old hymn, but ignores a big chunk of Jesus' life, which was helping and loving people in this world, and making this world better.

I was looking for the lyrics and came across a blog post that exemplified the mindset that is so depressing to me:

My son, a mortal creation like myself, has started the adventure of this short life. For a few years we will suffer together under the various afflictions of our current human condition, and then, eventually, we may both enjoy eternal love and fellowship beyond this world.
Now, I'm not sure if that is an outlier in her thoughts, but it does frame the problem pretty well. If this world is just something to suffer through, longing for our eternity, we aren't likely to try to make it better.

Shane quotes Rich Mullins, from an address he made at his college chapel:

You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too...[pause in awkward silence]...But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.
Obviously eternity and "getting saved" are important, but they should not be the focus. Living out Christ, being his love, should be the focus. And that's a focus I can get behind.

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