This future hope draws me to believe that we can both experience and be signs of God’s eventual future New Creation, today! Justice for the poor, the blind receiving sight, living as peacemakers and opposing violence, miracles that demonstrate our proper place as good gardeners of creation, authentic communal relationships – these all matter today as God’s Spirit draws towards the both presently inaugurated and future consummated reign of Christ on the earth. Christian faith is rooted in the historical “here and now,” with the affirmation that this world matters both today and tomorrow!
Therefore, what we do in the present “here and now” is immensely important.
One of the greatest struggles that many of us have with the version of Christianity that we inherited is that it often focused solely on tomorrow. In fact, we believed that “tomorrow” was getting close and therefore our mission was to: A) make sure we were living morally pure lives in order to be sure we wouldn’t be “left behind” and 2) make sure that we told our message of the coming return of Christ so that many could be saved in the imminent rapture. Essentially, we were taught that the Christian life was preparation / readiness for a coming escape from physical reality. Therefore, a focus on earthly issues such as justice and compassion took a back seat to the “readiness for evacuation” agenda of verbal evangelism and personal morality (here I distinguish personal morals from morals that affect lager communities and systems). But, rather than escapism we now pride ourselves on the inaugurated “here and now-ness” of the Kingdom. Escapism from this world represents a different sort of Christianity.*
But, I have an issue. More often than I’d like to admit, my thoughts and anxieties embody a practical escapism. In a sense, I want to escape my own “here and now” believing that an “escape” would make my life more satisfying. I spend so much time focusing on the “next thing” that I fail to see the potential of the moment that God has given me in the present. I believe in the “here and now” but live like I trust in escapism.
- Every time I think about how “one day” I will lead a significant ministry that will make a HUGE impact for God, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time my thoughts move toward the possibility of doing further education at a prestigious university so that I will obtain pseudo-credibility, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I look at my school loan debt and realize that only a miracle will pay it off, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I think about how I will finally “make it” when my first book is published with endorsements from the authors I admire, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I dream about how my relationship with God will one day magically become uber-spiritual, yet fail to put myself in a position to connect with God through the disciplines of the Christian life, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I fool myself into thinking that I will eventually start going back to the gym on a consistent basis so that I will be ripped like I was in my early 20′s again in my 30′s (okay, “ripped” is relative here ), I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I complain that I’ve lived in the same part of California “MY WHOLE LIFE” and how a “change” would fix half of my frustrations, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I wish that I was doing something significant for God’s kingdom and dwell on how my situation needs to change to make that happen, I seek escape from the here and now.
- Every time I anxiously ponder a pseudo-future that seems right in my own mind about how everything will turn out as I think it should, as though all of my plans coming together will make me “happy,” I seek escape from the here and now.
When will the day come that the “here and now” becomes the greatest opportunity that I’ve ever had for the kingdom? When will my theology of new creation invite me to see the Kingdom possibilities in ordinary situations? To be honest, I’m not sure I have answers to those questions. For now, I’m going to focus on “fixing my eyes on Jesus” in the present moment and see if my escapism will give way to all of the possibilities that are available to me in my “here and now.” Maybe, just maybe, on THIS day the “kingdom will come on earth,” in my small piece of the world, where God has placed my life right now.
*I realize that for many conservative dispensational folks that this might be a bit of a caricature. That is a fair accusation but those two broad strokes certainly hold true as main focuses of the pop-theology we were raised with in various strands of evangelicalism.
Kurt Willems is an Anabaptist writer and pastor who is preparing for church planting next year by finishing work towards a Master of Divinity degree at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. He writes at: the Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook.