When Jesus came to earth to live, preach, heal, die and resurrect, He sparked a renewed hope in the seemingly impossible. That elusive dream is the hope of utopia. Ever since the fall, humanity dreams of a return to Eden where there was no conflict, no income disparities, no war, no exploitation, no dishonesty, no hunger, no sickness, no deformity, no loneliness and no loss. This is the heart-cry of the majority of humanity. We recognize the corruption and darkness inherent in all levels of society and culture, but we long for good news that says things don’t have to be the way they are.
The life and way of Jesus Christ is that good news! This good news is a way of life, not just a mental assent. It is more than forgiveness of sins. It is much more than a reward after death. It is beginning to live the heavenly life as if you’ve died already (which you have if you’ve chosen to follow Christ) – Jesus says in Matthew 16:25, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Many christians think that “it” refers to heaven after death. They are only partly correct. Heaven starts here and continues after death as the Jesus follower lives out His heavenly ways here on earth.
Granted, humans will not be able to attain heaven’s fullness on their own anytime soon, but I believe tastes and whole meals of God’s utopia are possible in the here and now. It happens when individuals, groups and institutions follow and imitate the way of Jesus. He embodied the reality of heaven on earth and He expected His followers to do the same through the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, whenever someone chooses His way of doing things, some measure of the Edenic mixture of heaven and earth becomes reality. This way of thinking and living has huge implications.
It means that all the injustice, evil, lack and violence of earthly existence doesn’t just have to be put up with or numbed with distraction or accepted till one dies. There is a way out and that way is shown in the ‘hard’ teachings of Jesus Christ. They are the paths to all the things that humanity longs for: peace, relationship, reconciliation, equality, love and plenty for everyone. This is why no true follower of Jesus initiates, advocates or endures anything that doesn’t fit into that picture of God’s perfect kingdom.
Therefore the follower of Jesus does not participate in coercive violence and the willful killing of other humans. Violence will not be present in glory so why would we participate in it now? This is why the follower of Jesus will voluntarily keep himself near the financial level of those around him despite the showers of monetary “blessing” coming his way. There will not be huge gaps of possession in glory so why would he live that way now? This is why the follower of Jesus will not forsake the vows and covenants he/she has made to another. There will not be divorce and separations in glory so why would he/she live that way now? This is why the follower of Jesus gives food and clothes to the needy no matter what their reputation or state is. There will be no want in glory so why would we let it happen around us now? This is why the true follower of Jesus avoids patriotic nationalism. There will be no borders and nations-states in glory so why would he or she care so much for a particular nation here? This is why the follower of Jesus is so cautious with power-over situations. There will be no master-slave, boss-worker or priest-laity hierarchies in glory, so why would we pursue and cling to power now?
No area of life is exempt from this kind of examination and imagination. As committed followers of Jesus Christ we need to point ourselves, our acquaintances, our churches, our communities, our institutions and our nations to the ways of Jesus Christ. Rejection of the Jesus way is expected, but a little light is better than no light. Live it, talk it, dream it and advocate it. For in the light and life of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, lie the keys to the restoration of the cosmos and its inhabitants. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“