For some people the Christian life is about believing in Jesus. For others it’s about getting to heaven someday. For others it’s as simple as going to church or as complex as being part of the Church. For some it’s about following the Bible and for others it’s about loving God and loving others. I’m sure most Christians would say it involves all these things and so would I but I would like to say it differently perhaps. For me Christianity is living eternal life now, the life more abundantly, the life of heaven now.
Now I understand the hesitation to speak this way. It is certainly dangerous talk. We fear that we tread too near arrogance, thinking heaven is within our grasp during life when in reality it is far too transcendent to be experienced on earth. We may also fear that we are getting too close to the idea that I can somehow bring heaven hear on my own. In reality it’s God’s work, not mine, that make heaven a reality. These fears are all good for the critical thinker. But consider how the Bible talks about heaven and the Kingdom of God.
In Scripture the Kingdom of God is an apparent reality as well as a future one. It’s here and now – among us and within us – as well as coming to us. If we see heaven as too transcendent to be experienced now in this life then we have misunderstood the immanence of God. We’re ok with the idea that God is here among us and that Jesus was God incarnate, but isn’t god too transcendent to come as a man? Isn’t God too holy to be here among us filling our lungs with the Holy Spirit? Isn’t He too big? Of course He is and of course He isn’t!
The beautiful paradox of God is that His transcendence, His holiness, His greatness led Him to the cross of Christ. He is so immense that He can fit within every small space of existence especially within the experience and heart of Mankind. Heaven and God are similar in nature in this sense – in fact it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish the two. Heaven, after all, is the experienced presence of God. Heaven is God’s weight being experienced by His creation. So therefore, heaven is here right now, wherever God is and God’s weight fills the earth.
We believe that the man Jesus was the incarnation of this immense God and that He has called us to follow Him. He has called us to live out the Torah the way He does – to live the life He lived. We are called to live as Jesus did – completely overwhelmed with the presence of God and filled with the weight of God. The life of Jesus is the life of Heaven. We could never believe, in light of this, that we could ever do this by our power. If it were not for Jesus calling us and inviting us to be a part of this movement we would be exempt from the life of heaven. And if it were not for His submission and work on the cross and in the tomb heaven would be somewhere else. God alone brings heaven to earth. We cannot but then again we do!
This is another paradox of our faith. God has allowed us to be a part of the work that can only be His. We have been called to join Him in his self disclosure. We have been called to show the world what He is like. If this isn’t a paradox then I don’t know what is. Nathan Barnes once gave a great analogy. Nathan told the story of when he was doing some remodeling on his home. Now Nathan is a pretty good craftsman, he could obviously have done this work on his own and in pretty good time as well. But there was a problem. Nathan’s son wanted to help and Nathan wanted to include him. Nathan’s son was not a good craftsman; in fact he was barely old enough to swing a hammer. Nevertheless Nathan, being the loving father that he is, allowed his son to help in the work that really only Nathan could do, thus slowing down the project and giving Nathan a little more work in keeping track of his son. Nathan’s story may help us understand this paradox. God, a darn good craftsman, wants to include us, who can barely wing the hammer in bringing heaven here. So we “help” daddy. It’s messier this way and a lot slower but nevertheless we’re in on it.
Heaven is not something that can be contained. Eventually it overcomes and overwhelms. It overwhelms our lives, it overwhelms existence, it overwhelms reality, and we get to be a part of it.
Christianity is the life of heaven here. It’s a life that cannot be contained so it has to move and fill whatever it comes in contact with. The life of heaven is a movement within and through human experience not somewhere off in the sky. It’s culture, it’s politics, it’s sports, it’s everything and it’s worth everything.