Driving Into The Distance
Distant Christianity and Insensitive Witnessing
“I wish that Christians weren’t so focused on the afterlife.” He said, looking into the distance. “It just seems that they often forget that this life is here, and now.”
I sat back, and thought about how much I disagreed with that statement because of my theology, but at the same time how much that resonated with me. How could it be that what he said rang so true? 
I was honestly disturbed for a week, thinking about how it was true, how the people who had just witnessed to him were so rude and belligerent. They were so focused on showing their logic and on professing their faith, and arguing for the truth behind it that they forgot about living it out. They were so focused on getting my friend to think like them so he could join us in heaven, that they forgot about walking like Jesus here on earth.
The Road We Travel On
The image that came to my mind as I was driving to work was that our life is like a highway, and many of us Christians are looking at our destination. We’re so focused on that end goal, and on the final parking lot of our existence, that we forget how to drive on the freeway we’re on. It’d be like cruising on the interstate and inadvertently changing lanes and causing a seven car pileup because you weren’t present. Because you were so focused on where you’d be that you forgot that you actually have to drive there first.
Yet, Jesus’ message is absolutely eschatological in every sense of the word. That means that it is end-result focused. The goal of Christianity is to bring God’s Kingdom to its full realization, where God is with His people in a renewed creation, and every injustice, oppression, grievance, and disturbance is eliminated. Every tear is wiped away. And we are His people, and He is our God. . That’s where this is all headed.
Present, But Missing It.
Some people lose sight of that, and focus too much on there here and now. This results in churches and believers over-focusing on the social justice work, and forgetting the reason behind the actions. It focuses less on bringing hearts back to the one True God, and more on trying to make everybody a little less ‘sinful’, regardless of their belief system.
Or sometimes it turns into a disregard for those things. Sometimes the focused-on-the-now followers disregard the command to be obedient. They live it up, party it up, and disregard the God who cared for them to the extent that He’d die for them to have full life. Sometimes, they try and soak up all the worldliness they can, and then receive forgiveness once they’ve had their fill.
They too, have lost sight of where this all is headed.
The Way of Jesus
So where’s the middle road? Where’s the mean between the two excesses? How can we live presently and obediently here and now, without losing sight of the there and then.
Personally, I think it comes from understanding that the there and then begins here and now. Jesus’ main message was that the Kingdom of God, the present reality of God’s active, present, rule and providence, is among you. God’s way is an in-breaking reality that began at the convergence of redemptive history when Jesus hung on that cross. He is among us, and in us who believe.
He’s doing a new thing on earth, and has been since Jesus. We get to be a part of that! That’s where that social justice stuff comes. And yet, it’s not fully here yet. There’s still brokenness. There’s still wickedness, injustice, and that other stuff we throw into the grab-bag category of sin.
To live in the full reality of God’s Kingdom, and to live as Jesus did is to live in the midst of the Kingdom, and to realize it’s not quite here yet.
It’s to look forward joyfully to that time when all things will be renewed, and all things restored. That time when every tear will be wiped away. And yet, it’s to draw that joy, that peace, that shalom, into the now.
Jesus’ prayer that holds such a dear place in our hearts demonstrates this beautifully.
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
Our hearts should be longing for Heaven, when God is here with us in His full Glory. But we should be absolutely present in this world, living among the brokenness, and actively seeking to do His will here and now, as it is done there and then.
And we should be people who, like the rest, are driving on the highway that is this life and are focusing on the road ahead, but who know where they’re going.
If you look too far down the road, you lose sight of what’s in front of you, and you ask what the heck happened when you run off the road into oncoming traffic.
If you focus too much on what’s just in front, you can’t be aware of what’s to come, and you’ll miss your turn-off.
But if you gaze straightforward, focusing on the road ahead, and are aware of where you’re going, and where all of this is going, you can make the whole trip and be a present driver who knows his/her directions well. You’ll avoid the accidents and potholes, and politely let that crazy person into your lane. But you’ll also know where your exit is, you’ll know where you’re headed, and you’ll be able to safely lead others to that destination.
That’s how I want to live my life. I want to enjoy the here and now, and make it the best it can be. I want to bring God’s Kingdom here with every breath I take, every move I make, and every thought I think. I want to have a faith that makes all this more bearable, and meaningful for myself and others. A faith that makes this world a little bit more like heaven, and less like hell.
May you and I be present. May we be thankful of the life we have here and now, carefully navigating among the crazy highway that we’re on. May you and I do His will here on earth as it is done in Heaven.
May you and I know where we’re headed, and may we both bring others along with us, to that place where every tear is wiped away, and all things are renewed.
- Unfortunately, this is largely how Christians are represented. I think a large part of that is due to the bullhorn/tract witnesser types. They do indeed love Jesus and have the best possible intentions! But there are times when the approach seems condemning, insensitive, and unapproachable, as it did in this situation with my good friend. A wise professor of mine once speculated that everyone who was converted by a tract witnesser has had many seeds planted by a good Christian who was relationally evangelizing and witnessing by the way they lived their life, and approached the person in love, humility, and with grace. The words out of our mouths and the actions of our hands are a witness to the God we serve. ↩
- Revelation 21 ↩
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