heaven, earth, the kingdom of God and our youth
May 21, 2008
Although there is a lot to write about South Africa today, and although I might do that later, and might even add some of it into this post, this post is dedicated to the youth at our church. We had a great conversation on Sunday evening on what faith is about, and they asked that we continue the conversation on the coming Sunday. I promised them that I’ll blog some thoughts on this tonight, they promised to formulate some questions for a further discussion on Sunday. So this is for you guys and girls, but if anyone want to add something, feel free.
Basically the question we are asking is what we are called for, what is the core of our message? Is the Christian message primarily that we are called to get out of this world into heaven and not hell, and that in this life our task is simply to get our ticket out? Or is the Christian message primarily that we are called into this world, to change and transform this world? Many of you usually reading this blog might have read tons of books on the topic, but to explain this in one page is quite difficult, so please help and add in the comments where you think something is needed.
The centre of the preaching of Jesus, almost all scholars of the New Testament would agree, is the “kingdom of God”. If I were to use this term generally in our Afrikaner society it would be interpreted as “heaven”, and “heaven” would be a place, usually a physical place, outside this world. However, when Jesus use the word, it seems to refer to something else. Mark says he talk about the kingdom being “near” (Mark 1:14-15), that it comes where people start living what Jesus preached (Mark 4). According to Matthew and Luke Jesus teach them to pray for the kingdom to come on earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 11:2-4). As a famous New Testament scholar is known to say: “heaven is OK, it’s earth where the problems are”, and it’s earth where we are called to live, and let the kingdom come by living in the way of Jesus.
In the academic field of theology the word eschatology is sometimes used when we are talking about these things. Eschatology is about where we find hope. Different ways of understanding this is possible, and it would seem like we find different ways in the Bible as well. In the synoptic gospels the hope came with Jesus, and it keeps on appearing as we follow in the way of Jesus. Some other New Testament writers also talk about hope as something which lie in the future, as something which would come from God in future.
I like the way David Bosch talked about an “already” and a “not-yet” understanding. Hope is already here, and we bring hope to this world today. This is what we are called for. But out human hands will not bring the new kingdom, a kingdom where things work differently, where is work as if it would if God were king. We also believe that God is making this kingdom a reality. That it will not-yet be a reality until God break into this world in a way which we struggle understand. This we believe.
The long and the short is that our calling is towards this world, that we are bringing hope to this world, but that we also find hope in the fact that God is busy bringing hope into the world, breaking into this world form the future, bringing the kingdom of God about.
Well, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. You asked for some texts to read, how about looking at those I referred to. I think we might look at the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 11:2-4) on Sunday evening at SPACE (a conversation group, a safe SPACE to talk and ask questions and grow together, for the 17 year olds and upwards in our congregation), and I have a short video that I would like to show you. Bring your questions and thoughts along, and let’s have a discussion on this extremely important question.
And for the other readers of the blog. If you’ve read this far, thanx. You are welcome to take part by leaving a comment with your thoughts. At our group we are well aware that there are different opinions and understandings of things, and in our search for the way of Jesus we welcome other thoughts.