Be a Foretaste of the End
The conviction of the church is that one day God will bring our world to the state of neighborliness and well-being that God intends. That is, God’s promises will one day be fulfilled. Paul describes this as the day when “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). It is the day that the deadly forces in this world will be destroyed and human beings will live together as God intends. When we pray “Thy kingdom come/Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer, this is what we are praying for. The biblical story is not preoccupied with our departure to heaven after death, even though we believe that God’s steadfast love embraces us even in death. The preoccupation of the Bible is that God will one day make this world heaven on earth.
Although God will bring this new world into being, the church is not a passive onlooker. The mission of the church is to advocate for and model here and now the kind of world that God will eventually bring into being everywhere. Our way of being in the world is to be a foretaste of the end.
In a world that is still far from its appointed end, this mission will not be easy. Jesus was a foretaste of what the end looks like and we know what happened to him. For example, the world God intends is a world that makes room for everybody. In God’s neighborly world, people are bound together by their common humanity. In contrast, many communities throughout history have been bound together by what they exclude or fear. Christians have circled the ranks against non-Christians. The democratic West was bound together by their resistance to the Soviet Union and the Communist Eastern bloc. Most communities need an enemy to sustain their bonds with each other. When Jesus challenged the walls that people had built to separate themselves from each other, the status quo revolted against him.
When we advocate for a world that includes everybody, we should expect the same resistance. Advocating for a more forgiving criminal justice system that allows offenders to be included in society will bring resistance. Advocating for more affordable housing so that everyone will have a place to live will bring resistance. Advocating for a more welcoming policy for refugees will bring resistance.
The mission of the church is to help the world see what the end of all things looks like. What would it mean to live that mission a little more in our time?