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Why Heaven Matters
For some time, I’ve become increasingly convinced that our culture undervalues the hope of heaven.
The images of harps and clouds and guys in white robes seems odd and unattractive. Of course that’s just a caricature. But heaven is difficult to describe. A place of ultimate beauty, complete joy and boundless love. That, in short, is beyond description.
But there is also another challenge. In the last hundred years we have minimized many of the hardships people in past generations have faced and created comfort they though unimaginable.
Much of this is good. It is part of our Christian calling to fight disease and reduce hardship. But it has had an unintended consequence. It has given us the illusion that we can create heaven on earth.
A hundred years ago, in a world that lacked the comforts we now take for granted; a world touched more often by tragedy, heaven seemed much more real and attractive. These folks understood that as good life can be, that we have been created for a different, far better world to come.
The challenge in our day is that as our expectations for life have gone up, our disappointment with reality has skyrocketed. Any experience of suffering becomes an even bigger existential crisis because we have come to expect so much of this life (and so little of the life to come).
Some will object that this perspective makes us the sort that withdraw from everyday life. It’s whay some say Christians are “so heavenly minded, they’re of no earthly good.” I’m sure sometimes it’s true. But more often it’s the opposite. C.S. Lewis once commented, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next.”
Heaven people ought to be the most zealous for justice, peace, loving others and caring for the creation. With the promise of heaven as our hope, we should be working to resolve the breakdown of all racial, ethnic, and cultural divisions. We should be seeking to build a society marked by love, justice, peace and wisdom. Doing all this while anticipating the day when God will make all things right.
Our convictions about heaven should encourage us to take the long view; to have an eternal perspective. This world is not all there is. In fact, it’s not all that great a world. The hope of heaven should permeate our lives. We should then live this life by the values of the kingdom of heaven. 2 Cor. 5:9: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”