I got a nasty email this week. As I mentioned in my expanded newsletter for subscribers two weeks ago, I recently officiated the funeral of a 24-year-old who died while taking a drug laced with Fentanyl. The 69-year-old email sender found the service void of hope because I did not proclaim “Jesus saves,” never mind that the family requested an explicitly non-religious service.
Instead, I talked about how to move forward well in a world where we are all, “one bad decision away from a mistake that changes everything.” The message invited those gathered to set aside the question, “Why?” and instead ask, “What now?” It was an invitation to not fantasize about escape from a broken world, and instead, focus on how to live today.
Is Jesus Focus On Then Or Now?
I share all this because in our reading for this week (Luke 12:32-40), most Bibles offer a heading like, “Be Ready for the Lord’s Coming.” The implicit message is that Jesus is coming back so, when he does, make sure you are ready for him. This makes sense when your faith focuses on escaping earth to get to heaven, but misses the point when you realize Christianity is not about going to heaven, but about how you live today.
So what is Luke getting at when he writes lines like, “He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.”
Belief Reveals Itself In Uncertainty
An oft misinterpreted parable I explore in my meritocracy post has a similar theme. In Luke 19 Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of God not manifesting right away. Instead, it is like someone of a royal lineage going on a voyage. If the voyage is successful, the royal will be granted the kingdom. However, there is no guarantee of success, so the residents of the realm do not know if the royal will become their king.
So do they live today according to the royal’s rule while waiting or do they do their own thing? Do they want the royal to become their king or would they rather have someone else? You find the answer in what the people do during the royal’s voyage, a time when the future lacks certainly.
How Do We Live Today?
Likewise, how we live today reveals just how much we believe in Jesus’ kingship. Do we sit back and wait for Jesus to take us to heaven, or do we seek to bring heaven to earth? As the world invites us to embrace its power structures do we adopt them, or do we press for the values of the Kingdom, which in Luke call for the toppling of oppressive social structures? To use my language from the funeral, do we spend our days wondering why things are this way or do we consistently respond with, “What now?” as we seek to navigate our way through a hurting world?
Ultimately, I understand why I received the email I did. I understand why popular Christianity sees hope as an escape from this world. But as I told the author when I responded, I am far more interested in comforting the grieving through how I live today.