If you believe the hype, most religions think maintaining right behaviour and where you end up when you die (eternity in heaven or hell) matters most. Religion becomes a gatekeeper for what and who qualifies. Usually, that includes a chief list of morals you need to follow, and if you don’t make the cut, shame on you.
Easter is the holiest season for Christians, where the cross and resurrection are celebrated. The stories of why Easter is important, however, vary. Some tell it like this.
- Jesus died on the cross because God needed a sacrifice to appease his anger. When we believe in this work, and ask Jesus into our life, we can assure our place in heaven for eternity. Don’t say a prayer and you spend eternity burning in a lake of fire.
Unfortunately, this idea reduces the Christian faith to a transaction, and Jesus to a kind of insurance provider, protecting you from an angry vengeful God. It also assumes the final purpose and goal is getting out of this world for one in the clouds.
Maybe that was your belief growing up. Maybe it still is now. The trouble is, this perspective is too shallow. Here’s why.
The Christian hope isn’t where people go when they die (heaven vs. hell). Rather, the story God has for creation isn’t to extricate you from this world for one in the clouds with harps, angels, and white robes. It’s actually crazier.
When Jesus teaches his disciples how they ought to pray he uses a prayer many are familiar with–the Lord’s Prayer. It includes these lines:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven….
God’s story from start to eventual finish (and everything in between) isn’t a hope to see you go to heaven. Rather, it’s a hope to see you live out the fullness of your humanity. A humanity that lives through God’s story to put the world to rights (the dream to right all of the wrongs). You certainly have the choice how to live your life, but the purpose isn’t to do enough things to go to heaven. Rather, there’s a different dream that launches with Jesus and the story of Easter, and ends in a final collision of heaven and earth to form New Heaven New Earth. The earth we have now is going to be redeemed and restored–this is God’s ultimate dream for creation. We aren’t going anywhere….
So what should matter most? God wants to see you live out the fullness of your calling. Your gifts, your abilities, your contributions to participate in the unfolding dream to put the world to rights. How does that look like practically? If we read the Gospel of John, within the context of community (the church), the first chase is to love one another. There are other pieces, but that’s first place to look, start, and re-start as we grow.