Friday, March 12, 2010

Eschatological Perspective (Hope)

Rob here.

In his last post, my dad mentioned "not making this about me" and ended by asking "Got Hope?"

Discussions of the afterlife are important. People may not realize it, but our visions of the future drastically affect the way that we live now. Unfortunately, these discussions tend to be pushed aside in favor of religious neutrality or apathetic understanding, because we are content to define the afterlife as "going to heaven when we die." When defined thus, the Christian mission in the world becomes about conversion--saving as many souls from hell as we can by helping them make an intellectual decision--rather than holistic transformation/restoration; it becomes about cultivating one's own privatized spirituality rather than being responsible/sustainable with the surrounding world; it becomes more about maintaining one's own personal piety, in hopes of being in eternal spiritual bliss with God one day, rather than about the sacrificial work in this world that we are called to.
The Christian hope does not involve escaping the world or physical reality, but the language used to talk about the afterlife spins it this way. The picture at the end of Revelation is the New Jerusalem descending to earth. The Kingdom will come. We will partake in the Resurrection. Christ came and gave us a taste of what the Kingdom is. Why, then, do we so easily describe the afterlife in escapist terms - as going to heaven, experiencing hyper-body spirituality, and leaving the physical world behind? Christ came and gave a commission to redeem the world, not to pluck a select few out of it.

Our eschatological perspective needs a re-orienting. Our assumptions run deep - they are influenced by thinkers as far back as Plato, who pitted the Divine and the earthly against each other in a dualistic structure. Yes, God is completely "other" - but it does not mean that he will bring us into his "otherness" and forsake all that is earthly. In Christ, there is a clear picture of redeeming the world in all its physically created glory.

So, what is a proper view? I think I said it in an earlier post, and N.T. Wright explains it much better in his book Surprised by Hope. It is a hope in the Resurrection, begun in the body of Christ. One day, our whole being will be renewed. That is our hope--not eternal disembodied bliss. And, the important thing is that human beings are not passive in this project. God chose humans to be his vessels of redemption to the world. If we partake in the tradition of Christ, then we look forward to future restoration (through the lens of Christ's work), in order to bring the Kingdom more fully in the present. It is a holistic project - not merely converting individuals to an intellectual decision so they can be caught up to heaven when they die. Having a hope for the future grants us motivation to work toward that redemption in the present; to act as if it were true.

And what is the basic framework that Christ lays for this redemption-work? Love. Giving the cup of water to him who is in thirst. Sacrificing for the "other." Laying aside personal wealth, notoriety, knowledge - even spirituality - out of love for another. It is a paradox--it is at our weakest moment of sacrifice that we find our true strength in the tradition of Christ. It is the only way for God to found a Kingdom that is not based on violence, oppression or deception. The way of love. The tragedy that the Christian is forced to accept is that this way of sacrifice means death.

I look forward to the day when Jacob has full motility and no medical complications. I look forward to the day when 18-year olds don't get lethal bacterial infections and when infants don't die of leukemia and when earthquakes don't kill millions and when women aren't raped and murdered and when people don't let minor disagreements stand in the way of reconciliation. But for now, we will love all, and heal whom we may.

-Rob (Jake's bro)

1 comment:

The Contessa said...

You have incredible maturity, faith and depth for such a young man. Your posts are always encouraging and inspiring to me. Thank you.

May God continue to bless you and your family and continue to heal Jacob.